poem index

collection

Poems about Gardens

“I trust your Garden was willing to die ... I do not think that mine was—it perished with beautiful reluctance, like an evening star—"
Emily Dickinson, in a letter to her Aunt Katie Sweetser, 1880

poem

Telling the Bees

It fell to me to tell the bees, 
though I had wanted another duty—
to be the scribbler at his death, 
there chart the third day's quickening. 
But fate said no, it falls to you 
to tell the bees, the middle daughter. 
So it was written at your birth. 
I wanted to keep the fire, working 
the constant arranging and shifting 
of the coals blown flaring, 
my cheeks flushed red, 
my bed laid down before the fire, 
myself anonymous among the strangers
there who'd come and go. 
But destiny said no. It falls 
to you to tell the bees, it said. 
I wanted to be the one to wash his linens, 
boiling the death-soiled sheets, 
using the waters for my tea. 
I might have been the one to seal 
his solitude with mud and thatch and string, 
the webs he parted every morning, 
the hounds' hair combed from brushes, 
the dust swept into piles with sparrows' feathers. 
Who makes the laws that live 
inside the brick and mortar of a name, 
selects the seeds, garden or wild, 
brings forth the foliage grown up around it 
through drought or blight or blossom,
the honey darkening in the bitter years,
the combs like funeral lace or wedding veils 
steeped in oak gall and rainwater, 
sequined of rent wings. 
And so arrayed I set out, this once
obedient, toward the hives' domed skeps 
on evening's hill, five tombs alight. 
I thought I heard the thrash and moaning 
of confinement, beyond the century, 
a calling across dreams, 
as if asked to make haste just out of sleep. 
I knelt and waited. 
The voice that found me gave the news. 
Up flew the bees toward his orchards.
Deborah Digges
2004
poem

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight, 
  Alone and palely loitering;
The sedge is withered from the lake, 
  And no birds sing.

Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight, 
  So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel's granary is full, 
  And the harvest's done.

I see a lilly on thy brow,
  With anguish moist and fever dew; 
And on thy cheek a fading rose
  Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads
  Full beautiful, a faery's child; 
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
  And her eyes were wild.

I set her on my pacing steed, 
  And nothing else saw all day long;
For sideways would she lean, and sing 
  A faery's song.

I made a garland for her head, 
  And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love, 
  And made sweet moan.

She found me roots of relish sweet, 
  And honey wild, and manna dew;
And sure in language strange she said, 
  I love thee true.

She took me to her elfin grot, 
  And there she gazed and sighed deep,
And there I shut her wild sad eyes—
  So kissed to sleep.

And there we slumbered on the moss, 
  And there I dreamed, ah woe betide,
The latest dream I ever dreamed 
  On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings, and princes too, 
  Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
Who cried—"La belle Dame sans merci 
  Hath thee in thrall!"

I saw their starved lips in the gloam 
  With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke, and found me here 
  On the cold hill side.

And this is why I sojourn here 
  Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake, 
  And no birds sing.
John Keats
1819
poem

Done With

My house is torn down--
Plaster sifting, the pillars broken,
Beams jagged, the wall crushed by the bulldozer.
The whole roof has fallen
On the hall and the kitchen
The bedrooms, the parlor.

They are trampling the garden--
My mother's lilac, my father's grapevine, 
The freesias, the jonquils, the grasses.
Hot asphalt goes down
Over the torn stems, and hardens.

What will they do in springtime
Those bulbs and stems groping upward
That drown in earth under the paving,
Thick with sap, pale in the dark
As they try the unrolling of green.

May they double themselves
Pushing together up to the sunlight,
May they break through the seal stretched above them
Open and flower and cry we are living.
Ann Stanford
2000
poem

Come Slowly—Eden (211)

Come slowly—Eden
Lips unused to Thee—
Bashful—sip thy Jessamines
As the fainting Bee—

Reaching late his flower,
Round her chamber hums—
Counts his nectars—
Enters—and is lost in Balms.
Emily Dickinson
1890
poem

October (section I)

Is it winter again, is it cold again,
didn't Frank just slip on the ice,
didn't he heal, weren't the spring seeds planted

didn't the night end,
didn't the melting ice
flood the narrow gutters

wasn't my body
rescued, wasn't it safe

didn't the scar form, invisible
above the injury

terror and cold,
didn't they just end, wasn't the back garden
harrowed and planted--

I remember how the earth felt, red and dense,
in stiff rows, weren't the seeds planted,
didn't vines climb the south wall

I can't hear your voice
for the wind's cries, whistling over the bare ground

I no longer care
what sound it makes

when was I silenced, when did it first seem
pointless to describe that sound

what it sounds like can't change what it is--

didn't the night end, wasn't the earth
safe when it was planted

didn't we plant the seeds,
weren't we necessary to the earth,

the vines, were they harvested?
Louise Glück
2004
poem

To My Mother Waiting on 10/01/54

That October might have begun
pretty much like this one. Last night, 
first chilly night, we shut all the windows,
the cat curled between John's legs, I slept 
with a blanket over my head. At six a.m., wrapped 
in a sweater, I checked the newly dug 
beds of bulbs—tulips, your favorite—
and wondered if they, and the ones I planted
on your grave, would survive the months
of frozen ground.

You were three days from bearing your tenth; 
rather than risk a fall, going up and down
two steep flights, you stayed inside.
At six a.m. you may've been in your rocking chair,
half-listening for fights over blankets 
or Pop's return from the graveyard shift
while you folded, again, a newly washed stack
of secondhand diapers and tees.
Maybe a draft made you shiver or a pain 
made you think it's beginning.

Too soon the cold will kill the last blooms
on asters, hydrangea, Autumn Joy sedum.
Too soon another breakdown 
left you in the depression that lasted 
the rest of your life. Too soon Judge Grossi ruled 
you were dangerous to your child's welfare. 
At fifteen I was free to leave.
But this morning, I went back to when
the cold hadn't yet settled in,
when you were waiting for me.
Teresa Carson
2008
poem

Herb Garden

"And these, small, unobserved . . . " —Janet Lewis

The lizard, an exemplar of the small,
Spreads fine, adhesive digits to perform
Vertical push-ups on a sunny wall;
Bees grapple spikes of lavender, or swarm
The dill's gold umbels and low clumps of thyme.
Bored with its trellis, a resourceful rose
Has found a nearby cedar tree to climb
And to festoon with floral furbelows.

Though the great, heat-stunned sunflower looks half-dead
The way it, shepherd's crook-like, hangs its head,
The herbs maintain their modest self-command:
Their fragrances and colors warmly mix
While, quarrying between the pathway’s bricks,
Ants build minute volcanoes out of sand.
Timothy Steele
2006
poem

They'll spend the summer

They'll spend the summer
crushing the garden—
a steam let off slowly.
Joshua Beckman
2004
poem

Garden of Bees

The narcissus grows past

the towers. Eight gypsy

sisters spread their wings

in the garden. Their gold teeth

are unnerving. Every single

baby is asleep. They want

a little money and I give

them less. I'm charming and

handsome. They take my pen.

I buy the poem from the garden

of bees for one euro. A touch

on the arm. A mystery word.

The sky has two faces.

For reasons unaccountable

my hand trembles.

In Roman times if they were

horrified of bees they kept it secret
Matthew Rohrer
2011
poem

Littlefoot, 19, [This is the bird hour]

19

This is the bird hour, peony blossoms falling bigger than wren hearts
On the cutting border's railroad ties,
Sparrows and other feathery things
Homing from one hedge to the next,
                                                    late May, gnat-floating evening.

Is love stronger than unlove?
                                         Only the unloved know.
And the mockingbird, whose heart is cloned and colorless.

And who's this tiny chirper,
                         lost in the loose leaves of the weeping cherry tree?
His song is not more than three feet off the ground, and singular,
And going nowhere.
Listen. It sounds a lot like you, hermane.
                                                           It sounds like me.
Charles Wright
2007
poem

Digging Potatoes, Sebago, Maine

Summer squash and snap-beans gushed
all August, tomatoes in a steady splutter

through September. But by October's
last straggling days, almost everything

in the garden was stripped, picked,
decayed. A few dawdlers:

some forgotten carrots, ornate
with worm-trail tracery, parsley parched

a patchy faded beige. The dead leaves
of potato plants, defeated and panting,

their shriveled dingy tongues
crumbling into the mud.

     You have to guess where.
     The leaves migrate to trick you. Pretend
     you're sure, thrust the trowel straight in,
     hear the steel strike stone, hear the song
     of their collision—this land is littered
     with granite. Your blade emerges
     with a mob of them, tawny freckled knobs,
     an earthworm curling over one like a tentacle.
     I always want to clean them with my tongue,
     to taste in this dark mud, in its sparkled scatter
     of mica and stone chips, its soft genealogy
     of birch bark and fiddleheads, something

that means place, that says here,
with all its crags and sticky pines,

its silent stubborn brambles. This
is my wine tasting. It's there,

in the potatoes: a sharp slice with a different blade
imparts a little milky blood, and I can almost

smell it. Ferns furling. Barns rotting.
Even after baking, I can almost taste the grit.
Amy E. King
2010