Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Garden poems for your pocket

I'm a sucker for Days. Record Store Day, ESL Awareness Day, and Teacher Appreciation Day are just a few that I have recently observed, though I admit that a few of those are self-serving. Last year, while I was teaching a unit on poetry (to prove my previous sentence), I became aware of the Poem in Your Pocket Day, on April 30. The idea behind this observance, a final bow to National Poetry Month, is that in order to appreciate this literary medium, one copies (or writes) a meaningful poem and carries it around in his or her pocket, to pull out and read to friends, family, co-workers, and anyone else with the courtesy to listen.

The hardest aspect of this day, at least for me, is to choose one poem to have the honor to share space with my keys, spare change, and lint. This year, with the blog in mind, my choice addresses a gardening theme. I have decided to go with "The Garden Gate" (see below), though a little web research has dug up a few contenders, including:

"Guests" by Celia Thaxter--she captures the sensory essence of gardening, not just through her poetry, but through other written reflections about her own experiences tending an amazing garden on an island off the coast of Maine. More from her in future posts...
"They'll spend the summer" by Joshua Beckman--a sweet little haiku leaving the reader wondering who "they" are. My guess is that they are people like you and me and the garden alleviates our stress.
"The Glory of the Garden" by Rudyard Kipling--a decent garden takes hard work. Though I object to the poet's suggestion that only men carry out these duties, I'll acknowledge just a little that he was a product of his time.
"My Garden" by Emily Dickinson--though vulnerable, the garden will always be a place for birth.

If anyone out there has another notable poem within this theme, please share it. "The Garden Gate," written in February by Joe Bergin and Terry McAweeney, is a thoughtful tribute to the Minton Stable Garden and the people who have made it a special place. Joe has read the poem twice, at the Sounds of the Garden benefit and the Gardeners Gathering, but to our knowledge, it has not had its Internet debut, until now:

The Garden Gate

You get up early in spring in the morning
The riotous birds are mating high handsome and wide
The early light has beamed through your bedroom window
You trip down the steps to the great outside

Crocuses at your foot, the promise of a daffodil
The breeze doesn't bite, and the garden gate defrosted
is in a stone's throw sight
and in your bones you feel the old thrill

You've studied the January seed catalogues
You've sent for the heirloom strains
You've consulted the Farmer's Almanac
You've prayed for a sunny May and a tapering off of April rains

It's a short march to the garden
A shovel and hoe in hand
to turn the soil, put your back into toil
and your time and energy to sweeten the land

On your walk down the radius gravel path
you pause by the 3 granite monuments to the man
and give a thought to old John Carroll
and think to yourself
just how this glorious garden began

It was back in 1993
after they tore down the ancient horse barn
John, who'd seen much death in Vietnam
looked across the overgrown vacant city lot
and in a vision saw a neighborhood flower and vegetable farm

And you know he knew that was the old horse trail
where pleasure riders into Franklin Park would prance
and his mind must've reeled at the sheer infinitude of biomass
of all the equine road apple gifts
that down through the years
became the rich land grant of nitrogen to our plants

Now, onward, you open the wooden and iron ball and chain gate
and proceed to your 10' by 10' plot
The sun is kissing the back of your neck
and you feel sweetly high as if you've just had a large chocolat

Turn the soil, add compost, look for earthworms
Level the land, sow the seeds, hum a song
Thank Mother Earth, say a prayer to your little garden
May miraculous germination
please not take very long

Say, there's your beloved neighbor!
You converse as you're down on all fours
You delight in airy conversation
as they till their soil on their plot down from yours

It's a model for communities everywhere
It makes a hamlet of our corner of Jamaica Plain
Where you work side by side with fellow gardeners
growing crops in the sun and the rain

So it is, come summer, down on Williams Street
Home from work, ask a neighbor how their day has gone
and you can tell it's been a hard one
...but they smile and say
"I'll see you in the garden, later on..."


Allison said...

That's a beautiful poem. Thank you for sharing it. I do all of my gardening at home now, and I miss the interaction with other gardeners.


Bryan Bunch said...

The Garden
by Andrew Marvell

How vainly men themselves amaze
To win the palm, the oak, or bays ;
And their uncessant labors see
Crowned from some single herb or tree,
Whose short and narrow-verg├Ęd shade
Does prudently their toils upbraid ;
While all the flowers and trees do close
To weave the garlands of repose.

Fair Quiet, have I found thee here,
And Innocence, thy sister dear!
Mistaken long, I sought you then
In busy companies of men :
Your sacred plants, if here below,
Only among the plants will grow ;
Society is all but rude,
To this delicious solitude.

No white nor red was ever seen
So amorous as this lovely green ;
Fond lovers, cruel as their flame,
Cut in these trees their mistress' name.
Little, alas, they know or heed,
How far these beauties hers exceed!
Fair trees! wheresoe'er your barks I wound
No name shall but your own be found.

When we have run our passion's heat,
Love hither makes his best retreat :
The gods who mortal beauty chase,
Still in a tree did end their race.
Apollo hunted Daphne so,
Only that she might laurel grow,
And Pan did after Syrinx speed,
Not as a nymph, but for a reed.

What wondrous life is this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head ;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine ;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach ;
Stumbling on melons as I pass,
Insnared with flowers, I fall on grass.

Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness :
The mind, that ocean where each kind
Does straight its own resemblance find ;
Yet it creates, transcending these,
Far other worlds, and other seas ;
Annihilating all that's made
To a green thought in a green shade.

Here at the fountain's sliding foot,
Or at some fruit-tree's mossy root,
Casting the body's vest aside,
My soul into the boughs does glide :
There like a bird it sits and sings,
Then whets and combs its silver wings ;
And, till prepared for longer flight,
Waves in its plumes the various light.

Such was that happy garden-state,
While man there walked without a mate :
After a place so pure and sweet,
What other help could yet be meet!
But 'twas beyond a mortal's share
To wander solitary there :
Two paradises 'twere in one
To live in Paradise alone.

How well the skillful gard'ner drew
Of flowers and herbs this dial new ;
Where from above the milder sun
Does through a fragrant zodiac run ;
And, as it works, th' industrious bee
Computes its time as well as we.
How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers!

Sally said...

Thanks for your comment, Allison, and for the poem, Bryan! I've had a few interruptions this morning, but I was able to take in all the glories of the lush and fruitful garden imagery in this poem.
Allison, you should come along with me to the MSG some afternoon to check out how things are coming along.