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

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

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

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

My Mother on an Evening in Late Summer

1

When the moon appears
and a few wind-stricken barns stand out
in the low-domed hills
and shine with a light
that is veiled and dust-filled
and that floats upon the fields,
my mother, with her hair in a bun,
her face in shadow, and the smoke
from her cigarette coiling close
to the faint yellow sheen of her dress,
stands near the house
and watches the seepage of late light
down through the sedges,
the last gray islands of cloud
taken from view, and the wind
ruffling the moon's ash-colored coat
on the black bay.


2

Soon the house, with its shades drawn closed, will send
small carpets of lampglow
into the haze and the bay
will begin its loud heaving
and the pines, frayed finials
climbing the hill, will seem to graze
the dim cinders of heaven.
And my mother will stare into the starlanes,
the endless tunnels of nothing,
and as she gazes,
under the hour's spell,
she will think how we yield each night
to the soundless storms of decay
that tear at the folding flesh,
and she will not know
why she is here
or what she is prisoner of
if not the conditions of love that brought her to this.


3

My mother will go indoors
and the fields, the bare stones
will drift in peace, small creatures --
the mouse and the swift -- will sleep
at opposite ends of the house.
Only the cricket will be up,
repeating its one shrill note
to the rotten boards of the porch,
to the rusted screens, to the air, to the rimless dark,
to the sea that keeps to itself.
Why should my mother awake?
The earth is not yet a garden
about to be turned. The stars
are not yet bells that ring
at night for the lost.
It is much too late.
Mark Strand
1979
poem

They'll spend the summer

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

This Was Once a Love Poem

This was once a love poem,
before its haunches thickened, its breath grew short,
before it found itself sitting,
perplexed and a little embarrassed,
on the fender of a parked car,
while many people passed by without turning their heads.

It remembers itself dressing as if for a great engagement.
It remembers choosing these shoes,
this scarf or tie.

Once, it drank beer for breakfast,
drifted its feet
in a river side by side with the feet of another.

Once it pretended shyness, then grew truly shy,
dropping its head so the hair would fall forward,
so the eyes would not be seen.

IT spoke with passion of history, of art.
It was lovely then, this poem.
Under its chin, no fold of skin softened.
Behind the knees, no pad of yellow fat.
What it knew in the morning it still believed at nightfall.
An unconjured confidence lifted its eyebrows, its cheeks.

The longing has not diminished.
Still it understands. It is time to consider a cat,
the cultivation of African violets or flowering cactus.

Yes, it decides:
Many miniature cacti, in blue and red painted pots. 
When it finds itself disquieted 
by the pure and unfamiliar silence of its new life,
it will touch them—one, then another—
with a single finger outstretched like a tiny flame.
Jane Hirshfield
2001
poem

Nothing to Save

There is nothing to save, now all is lost,
but a tiny core of stillness in the heart
like the eye of a violet.
D. H. Lawrence
1964
poem

osculation for easter flower

if we weren't made of soot—which we highly suspected/respected in her garden—she had no garden we did not love her—we did not let her picture fall from our wall forgive & foment—no one kissed me where like bad jewels—good black dirt what song can't do & does—magnificent thumper in the wild 'the secret blackness of milk'—'sordid intimacy of the abyss' when it became a corolla—flickers you are like an angel—yelling for attention—still more still my lamentation is as perfect—an almond a shell her eyes an altitude—amnesic lover gathered her skirts—to the blond chapel altarbirds follow us—herehere herehere

Sandra Miller
2005
poem

They that have power to hurt and will do none (Sonnet 94)

They that have power to hurt and will do none   
That do not do the thing they most do show,   
Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,   
Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow;   
They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces
And husband nature’s riches from expense;   
They are the lords and owners of their faces,   
Others but stewards of their excellence.   
The summer’s flower is to the summer sweet,   
Though to itself it only live and die,
But if that flower with base infection meet,   
The basest weed outbraves his dignity:   
  For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;   
  Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds. 
William Shakespeare
1609
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

The Satyr's Heart


Now I rest my head on the satyr's carved chest,
The hollow where the heart would have been, if sandstone
Had a heart, if a headless goat man could have a heart.
His neck rises to a dull point, points upward
To something long gone, elusive, and at his feet
The small flowers swarm, earnest and sweet, a clamor
Of white, a clamor of blue, and black the sweating soil
They breed in...If I sit without moving, how quickly
Things change, birds turning tricks in the trees,
Colorless birds and those with color, the wind fingering
The twigs, and the furred creatures doing whatever
Furred creatures do. So, and so.  There is the smell of fruit
And the smell of wet coins. There is the sound of a bird
Crying, and the sound of water that does not move...
If I pick the dead iris?  If I wave it above me
Like a flag, a blazoned flag?  My fanfare? Little fare
with which I buy my way, making things brave? The way
Now I bend over and with my foot turn up a stone,
And there they are: the armies of pale creatures who
Without cease or doubt sew the sweet sad earth.
Brigit Pegeen Kelly
2004
poem

Trees in the Garden

Ah in the thunder air
how still the trees are!

And the lime-tree, lovely and tall, every leaf silent
hardly looses even a last breath of perfume.

And the ghostly, creamy coloured little tree of leaves
white, ivory white among the rambling greens
how evanescent, variegated elder, she hesitates on the green grass
as if, in another moment, she would disappear
with all her grace of foam!

And the larch that is only a column, it goes up too tall to see:
and the balsam-pines that are blue with the grey-blue blueness of
     things from the sea,
and the young copper beech, its leaves red-rosy at the ends
how still they are together, they stand so still
in the thunder air, all strangers to one another
as the green grass glows upwards, strangers in the silent garden.

                              Lichtental
D. H. Lawrence
1964