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About this Poem 

"At sixteen, I stopped feeling ashamed of desiring men but dealing with a public queer identity—navigating a world that told me if I wasn’t invisible I wasn’t wanted—stressed me. Then and now, I loved media written by or about women—safe havens for the femme self I was shamed into hiding. I felt kinship with women whose inner lives were ignored or denigrated. H. D.’s book Sea Garden was one such work. Because my queerness was private and hypothetical (I hadn’t so much as kissed a boy at the time) my sexuality was profoundly interior. Sea Garden reminded me of Florida, the patch of beach where I listened to Mariah Carey and imagined a life without worry. Unafraid of traditionally feminine images—flowers, the sea—H. D.’s luscious and acrid, florid and bitter, god-haunted landscapes—erotic, psychological, and spiritual—inspired me. In H. D.’s poem ‘Orchard,’ the prostrate speaker entreats a god’s absent son to spare him from loveliness. Isn’t this an endlessly queer dilemma—to love and loathe one’s desire? I knew those rituals from my own fantasies beckoning some big, god of a man to have his way with my body, yet stay, stay tender, leave me—so that I may call him again—loved, sore, alive."
Derrick Austin

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Orchard


I saw the first pear	
as it fell—
the honey-seeking, golden-banded,	
the yellow swarm	
was not more fleet than I,	        
(spare us from loveliness)	
and I fell prostrate	
crying:	
you have flayed us	
with your blossoms,	        
spare us the beauty	
of fruit-trees.	
 
The honey-seeking	
paused not,	
the air thundered their song,	        
and I alone was prostrate.	
 
O rough-hewn	
god of the orchard,	
I bring you an offering—	
do you, alone unbeautiful,	        
son of the god,	
spare us from loveliness:	
 
these fallen hazel-nuts,	
stripped late of their green sheaths,	
grapes, red-purple,	        
their berries	
dripping with wine,	
pomegranates already broken,	
and shrunken figs	
and quinces untouched,	        
I bring you as offering.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

H. D.

H. D.

Born in 1886, Hilda Doolittle was one of the leaders of the Imagist movement. She published numerous poetry collections, including Sea Garden (Constable and Company, 1916) and Helen in Egypt (Grove Press, 1961). She died in 1961.

by this poet

poem
[Artemis speaks]
               The cornel-trees
               uplift from the furrows,               
               the roots at their bases
               strike lower through the barley-sprays.

               So arise and face me.
               I am poisoned with the rage of song
poem

I

They say there is no hope—
sand—drift—rocks—rubble of the sea—
the broken hulk of a ship,
hung with shreds of rope,
pallid under the cracked pitch.

They say there is no hope
to conjure you—
no whip of the tongue to anger you—
no hate of words
you must rise to

poem

The light beats upon me.
I am startled—
a split leaf crackles on the paved floor—
I am anguished—defeated.

A slight wind shakes the seed-pods—
my thoughts are spent
as the black seeds.
My thoughts tear me,
I dread their fever.
I am scattered in its whirl.
I am