This month, I’m writing words and posting images relating to the landscape of memory. I hope to write poems most days and also share photos, quotes, and more prosaic thoughts related in some way to memory, nostalgia, longing for place, remembering and forgetting, landscape, dreamscape, landscape’s memory and memory’s landscape, the intersection of the layered historical physical world with personal memory, the frames that both landscape and memory use to contain and order our focus, the landscape of childhood, the landscape of devastation, how memories lie and tell the truth, the fragmentation of memory, how landscapes shape us and our memories, and so on. All the posts will be linked to the Introductory Page as they are posted. Thanks for visiting.
Today, a poem and some photos from Longwood Gardens, in Kennett Square, PA.
Three decades returning yearly, a migrating bird propelled
by mere impulse to Longwood Gardens, known, I guess,
for its spasmodic fountains, vivid choreographed colour, bombast, wonder;
and for its Italian water garden, classical, ordered, sedate
but for the comic relief of several spitting frogs, sculpted and scattered;
the outdoor pools afloat and exquisite with voluptuous
waterlilies and meaty Victoria platters, robustly ribbed, flesh-piercing;
expansive lawns and walkways decorated in tumbling monochrome petals;
and those are charming, infiltrating, all an oasis
in a world and time that’s desperate for the simple truth
of flower, leaf, bee gathering pollen, water flowing.
Plants and people idle in the humid air of the conservatory,
glassed and palmed, water and soil scent mixing a brew
our cells crave like liquor, forgotten remedy
for our parched pith, our ponderous bones.
Yet it’s the meadow landscape,
its ordinary earthy slope, what’s hidden
and hungry within, that I save like a reward,
a respite from the beauty built and planned —
though the meadow, I can see, is carefully
designed, crafted, bridged, mowed, burned;
even so, and also because,
life crackles here: barn swallows, sparrows, bluebirds
sweeping and nesting in spring, red-winged blackbirds
snagging swaying grasses, kestrels attuned;
the summer singing, humming, jazzing along in dragonflies,
mockingbirds, towhees, warblers, catbirds, bunnies, the butterflies,
and a surprise of spotted cucumber beetles,
in and out of bristly thistle, gladsome butterfly weed and cardinal flower,
airy fairy mountain mint, loosening Joe Pye weed,
glimpses of fleabane and morning glory,
a deep sounding of ironweed, wild bergamot, and dark asters.
And sometimes, more often than you might think,
unexpected and yet how could it be otherwise,
a mole, vole, or shrew lies lifeless in the grass, itself and not,
its grey form a very good reproduction of the animal it was,
and I hold it to my heart, close to our pulsing marrow,
then lay it down in its grass plot, bones at rest, restored to the balmy land.
(I have photos back to 1992 but none of the meadow until 2009.)
[ More about Longwood’s meadow burns. ]