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Botanical GardensDon Coles
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Vol. 19 No. 17 · 4 September 1997
Poem

Botanical Gardens

Don Coles

271 words

Here’s a handy Arcadia, let’s go in.
Rich loamy smell, heavy fronds –
I’ll hold this one up while you bend
through. Frangula siliquastrum
fissured trunk, glossy blunt leaves, and
what an odd angle to this low branch, jutting
forward like a warning arm. Abandon hope,
short people. Loamy smell, damp clumps
of humus, encroaching blunt leaves – and this
Latinate taxonomy in old brown ink. No,
go on ahead – I’ll loiter a bit. A deep
breath. Roots, darkness. Another. What
fills me? Unself fills me. Breathfuls of
dark oblate leaves, clotted humus, forests.
Of course, yes, trackless forests. These
are people-proscribing smells. Nothing
here doubts itself, from which it follows
there is not a hint of me here. And not
a hint – what relief! – of many things
I’m sick to death of, e.g. vanity, anxiety
concerning perhaps some unfavourable
thing that has been said about me, general
unsettledness … a dozen such abstractions.
Contemptuous, derisory of all these, of
comparisons, rankings, restiveness,
Frangula siliquastrum has been here
all morning, also yesterday, also last year.
Decades, probably. My whole life. Sudden
remorse now on my part at not having lived
patiently enough. Steadfastly enough. Here
is such constancy, such fidelity. Easy,
though, for Frangula siliquastrum.
Still, something’s going on. I am aware of
a reproof. All this verges on the valuable
and I will go on thinking of it, and yet
what is the point? There is no dialogue
here. Trees exclude us totally – woods and forests
are obscure in their permissions. This
has gone far enough, I think. I never wanted
to stay long anywhere, really.

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