The Garden

Harry Clifton

It was a closed space. From the moment I saw it
I knew I could depend on it.
To hell with the endless weathers
Passing above, and the high apartments
Shadowing it. Down here
On the stone bench, of an autumn morning,
I felt for a moment, the heat of sun on my face
As it angled around the corner
Out of sight. My patch of sky
Went blue then, or grey,
And I went inside.
But it was always there,
The garden. At its centre
A tree, a plum tree
As I discovered, when the bluish fruit
Appeared through the leaves in September,
Gave it core, and strength, and definition.
Yellow courgettes, and ripening tomatoes
Bound to their splints. And tough carnations
Half in love with the wire that fenced them in.
And the clay, of course, rich and black
After rain, or a dry brown bath
For thrushes and sparrows.
And day after day, the same man
Clearing weeds, or laying a path
According to some unspecified plan.

No need to mention where all this was.
I had travelled enough, by then,
To dispense with where. Sufficient to say
A horse’s tail appeared, one day,
Above a gable, or a streak of cirrus –
Time and the future, far away.
Woodsmoke, the waft of cooking,
Brought me back to earth –
I was here, in the garden. An old woman
With green fingers, fed me generic names
Like Flower, or Tree,
As if nothing else mattered
But the garden, and having your own key.