Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Garden variety fiefdom

Stare at a garden too much and too long the garden in turn will stare back at you, which will cause you sensibly self reflect and transmit your paradigms straight into the plumes, the foliage, the draping ribbons of grass and the rioting colors of the petals. Not a bad thing, if the result is Roseanna Warren's delightful and wry bit of anthropomorphizing "Hydrangea". The billow-bloomed plant is viewed as king, a tyrant, a vain and commanding lord overseeing the minute arrangements, tilled and incidental,of the plot of earth, assessing what he owns in his realm.

 Office Manager you know? Arrogant Shift Leader? Power drunk Lead Cashier? All manner of closed-system tyrant can be wedged into Warren's winsome ode, as this personality is the one that forgets that it has no real power in it's current existence, has no input as to the determined processes by imagining instead that it is King of All. This would a superb example of what it might be like if a self-flattering dolt happened into the Supreme Fiction of Wallace Steven's terrain of lyrically perfect Ideal Types. The most foolish of creatures assumes the credit reserved for God it cannot be:

The central path leads straight to him. Behind,
a stained mirror and mossy wall back up his power.
Thousands of crinkled, tiny, white ideas occur to him
with frilled and overlapping edges.

As with the best tended gardens, Warren shapes her phrases, tends to the placement of her words and select verbs; she gets to a vision of delusional grandeur as well as the snapshot of the same situation going about it's business unmindful, ultimately unconcerned with the royalistic projections of a preening ego.

No one else
deploys such Byzantine metaphysics. No one
can read his mind. Only he remembers
the children's secret fort by the cypress tree
among fraught weeds, rusted buckets, and dumped ash,
and how lost the grown-ups sounded, calling, as night came

The Byzantine reference can be puzzling, as it implies conspiracy with the other plants to conquer , rule and regulate this garden. Warren sees this in simpler terms.  this  being, rather, a projected image  of the  poet imaginings the vanity of the Hydrangea. It is the title flower's delusion that it is the lord of the loam that nourishes it. The above passage removes us from  the bloom's point of view and establishes that none of the other plants, the previously regarded "minions", haven't the former plant's frame of reference, as in "No one can read his mind." What is Byzantine here are the layered rationalizations that allow the Hydrangea to over-estimate it's importance in this small patch of the planet.The voice surely shifts from the pithy and fussy realm of the king Hyrdangea to the reality of the rest of the garden, it's rooted citizens, all involved in their own bits of business within the loam-filtered niche. Handily, smartly Warren doesn't disabuse us from viewing the garden as a sphere with human qualities--she rather sustains it as she debunks the assumptions of the title plant. There is a skillful sustaining of the metaphor while the slight lesson is made, suggesting a world with an unending line of cosmologies coexisting in the resonances of private thoughts. Closely observed, crisply described, thoroughly unpretentious.