Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Old Gardens


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I thought the work was going pretty well.
Roses were in, I was planting lilies –
those yellow hybrids that bloom all season,
you’d never know they live for just one day.

It’s the old herb garden we built back then,
to retain the slope. Weather-gray wall stones
have grown a green coat of lichen and moss,
since we moved away and have now returned.

It was that unmistakable slither,
the slippery slide – the flickering tongue.
Instinctively, I froze as our eyes met.
He’s been here all along – the garden’s his…

No! Mine! Even that wall you hide behind;
those chives I planted forty years ago,
the tansy, bee balm, pink oregano –
the tough survivors that have laughed at you.

I felt we’d made a pact, created truce,
believing I could conquer an old fear.
The garden needed tending, and I knew
that I would never raise a hand to him.

Next morning, when the sun had risen high,
I leaned across the gate-leg table top,
where blinding light sparked off the pewter cups,
and looked into the garden down below.

I wasn’t sure at first just what I saw -
but sickened as the vision cleared for me;
two snakes in battle for a helpless toad
with fangs sunk deep and writhing round the rose.

When horror of it faded from my mind,
I pondered retribution for that death:
cruel execution – or communion,
in consumption of another creature …

So many thoughts and questions with no end –
wind on like long black roads with yellow lines;
circles twining back to the beginning,
when all the digging seemed to go so well.


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9 comments:

  1. Wonderful tale you weaved in verse. Really sucking the reader in.

    Yeah that's pretty much nature, may be cruel to us, but it's just food for them and the want to live.

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  2. yikes on the snakes...and it is a great allusion to our present political situation too...smiles.

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  3. Heartfelt emotions in this poem held me spellbound. A horrible sight and a terrible plight for the toad but all things must live, somehow.
    Maybe now they've fed the snakes will be comatose for a few days.

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  4. you painted that scene very well...

    i love these lines:
    Instinctively, I froze as our eyes met.
    He’s been here all along – the garden’s his…

    No! Mine!

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  5. Thank goodness, in my garden, one thing I can be sure of never finding is a snake or two! ♥

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  6. I was glued to your tale, told effortlessly. I love the photograph, too, goes so well with the story. .

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  7. I respect the honesty of your repulsion, your resolve not to hurt the snake, but especially your final stanza: you identify with the snake!

    In reading this I was thinking about how so often we suppose we are the owners of our homes, our properties, but we are no more the owners of them than the other creatures that live there. There are moments when a battle is necessary, but that is the way of nature.

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