Ten Takes on the Garden
by Philip Gross
It could, I quite see, grow on you:
the seduction of melancholy. A deciduous
emotion, longing to be mulch.
The corkscrew willow: every inch a nervous tic.
How much of what we prize –
Exquisite! – is deformity?
Or the shrill of a New England (dying,
dying) Fall – its annual opera. Car-loads
turn out to be ravished by magnificent distress.
A garden inclos’d… Outside, the soft
lathe-hum of traffic is part of the point:
that is there. And therefore: this is here…
… which might be tragic, if we didn’t half
believe this is the real, right world – the rest,
at best, approximation and at worst, mistake.
The mechanical birds of the Great Khan’s
pleasure garden? We have moorhens
ticking over the pond, with rusty squeaks.
How subtly crushing is the ruthless calm
of ducks (when they’re not panicking,
that is). We are dismissed by it.
And as for Nature? Where more satisfied
than this: the cut stump rotting, liquefying almost,
larvae hard at work on softness, little guts.
Where were we? Treading water.
Damp rises. Gravity sucks. And we’re busy
just keeping our heads above ground.
When the wind blows, rashly coloured scraps
of children scatter in among the leaves
or vice versa, who knows which is which.
Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, Birmingham.