Wednesday, February 4, 2009

How does your garden overgrown?


Anyone will tell you, if asked, that what they want from this life are merely simple things, not much at all, nothing too large or complicated. Emma Jones in her poem "Paradise" would have us realize that simple things are less simple than the label would indicate. There is enchantment in building our particular nest, but there is work before there is glory, many surprises and obligations to tend to after the daydreaming is done with:

What you wanted was simple:
a house with a fence and a kind of gulled
light arching up from it to shake in the poplars
or some other brand of European tree
(or was it American?) you'd plant
just for the birds to nest in and so
the crows who'd settle there
could settle like pilgrims.



A fine stream of language, this poem reads as if author Emma Jones were half asleep late in the evening typing rapidly, barely keeping pace with the colliding, chiming, alliterating language that flowed through her fingers and onto to the monitor . I'm assuming, of course, that this was composed on a her computer, but even if I'm wrong it has that feeling of a ripe and rapid language that is intoxicated withs the scents and scenery of a tableau being observed and then re-imagined. "Paradise" is a bit like the lash garden, foliage and greenery Jones undertakes to evoke, the words and phrases demonstrating all sorts of conflations intent and verbal assault that there's the feeling of an everyday scene becoming virtual, enhanced, as if in high definition. Unreal as it may be, it fits a poem where the common place thing comes under an intense scrutiny and unlocks the associative tendency. Perhaps Jones was half asleep, writing half way between dream time and the solidity of the chair she was sitting on. It is lovely all the same;


Darling, all day I've watched the garden make its way
down the road. It stops at the houses
where the lights are on and the hose reel is tidy
and climbs to the windows to look inside
like a child with its eyes of flared rhododendrons
and sunflowers that shutter the wind like bombs
so buttered and brave the sweet peas gallop
and the undergrowths fizz through the fences
and pause at some to shake into asters and weep.



If nothing else , the makes me think of the book Cultivating Delight by essayist / poet Diane Ackerman, a lyric series of essays she wrote observing her garden grow , seemingly decline and then grow yet again in the course of year; Ackerman is an especially eloquent stylist with a broad knowledge of natural sciences who persuades you (or at least me) that the seasonal cycle is wondrous, fantastic beyond the scientific data one can cite, memorize.


Jones delights as she describes the garden growing lushly, thickly, out of control finally, finding it's way beyond human borders, insinuating itself into man made things, onto houses, around windows, growing in and around the man made things that intrude on the fertile soil. Her rhymes and slant rhymes are wondrous and give evidence of the musically tuned ear; the near enjambments and alliterations scan easily from the page, and effectively create a sense of sensory seduction--this comes off as an invasion of ambivalence, in that one doesn't know whether to fight for their boundaries or to give in altogether. It is closely observed, sweetly detailed, the way this growth , this spread simply and ably transgresses the invisible lines that define legalistically determined notions of property and in effect change the way one comes to regard the soil where they make a home.


A knowing scenario, the setting up of the small accumulations of things one wanted in a homestead, the fantastical growth of the garden that softens the hard-edged result of consumer-driven housing results and rewards the homeowner who has tended their plot, who has grown roots in turn, and the final summation, a bit of banter where a banal observation is an acknowledgement of a rare bit of sublimity in progress:


The garden is a mythical beast and a pilgrim.
And when the houses stroll out it eats up
their papers and screens their evangelical dogs.

Barbeque eater,
yankee doodle,
if the garden should leave
where would we age
and park our poodle?

"This is paradise," you said,
a young expansive American saint.
And widened your arms to take it in,
that suburb, spread, with seas in it.

One needn't surrender to the chaos of overgrown plants nor develop an obsession with cutting back a foliage that threatens one's door mat; balance is the message, the tending of things,the trimming, the hoeing, the time on one's knees with a spade, gloves and a box of tulip bulbs and apple seeds; a balance is maintained and the pay off, if that's the word, are those moments when what one has, a home, a garden, a preferred street to live on, family and friends to share it with, become of a piece; for the moment, for a precious few moments, things are absolutely perfect