Sections from ‘Book of the Garden’

Raymond Friel

October.

Windfall
is thin on the ground,
quickly rotten.
Perhaps it’s the sick summer,
or a sick tree ...

My mind takes the same turns,
overweight, ridiculous in trunks,
arms in the air
down the flume,
on and on
and down.

     *

Now the borders
are pruned back

(the crippled peony
pleading to the blue
October sky)

the lost toys of summer
are found,
the handguns and bats,
a cricket ball
I’m sure looks
almost like something else
as it hangs
above the house
but right now
that doesn’t seem to matter.

Where’s the wisdom in that?

     *

I don’t have the heart
to pull down those weeds
on top of the wall –
like the tar
in an old smoker’s lungs
they probably keep
it together,
too much part
of the parent body
to remove
without damage
to the whole.

Leave them be.

     *

A plastic patio chair
is still under
the apple tree,
printed with wet leaves.
There I sat
in the summer,
those few times,
with a book
I let slip
and a long drink,
gazing off into
the fading day
as if insight
could be stared
out of what-is.

     *

It’s high time
I planted the hyacinth bulbs
I bought in the market
last month.

Since then
they’ve lodged
on the shelf
on the butcher’s block
like a row of thoughts,
tatty and predictable.

In what passes
for an age of confession,
may what I bury
stay hidden,

for form’s sake.

     *

Then again
the tubers
do look
a lot like
old mens’
members,
shrivelled
in a tidy
bloodless
heap, like
the spoils
of some
Biblical
battle –
gentile
foreskins
on the field
of God’s victory.

     *

Gloved and gathering up
cuttings I step
laden over the stream
I wish was
there.

     *     *     *

November.

All Saints.

The beatific vision,
as outlined by the schoolmen:
a drive-in
with one person per car,
glued to the white screen
long after the credits.

Giles of Rome
dared to disagree.
Language cannot disappear, he wrote.
To be able to speak
is not a sign
of imperfection
(do you hear that?) ...
Just talking
to the beloved,
said Giles,
affords great pleasure.

     *

All Souls.

The bin bag in the yard
beneath the yellow light
of the kitchen,
its guts spilled
by animals in the night,
will today rest
in Abraham’s bosom.

     *

In back gardens
rockets go hissing up
out of the ground
to a few hundred feet
then explode into willows
of white sparks.

In the park
the crack and roar
of the council bonfire
muffles
a screaming pope.