What garden could possibly bloom
on this desiccated earth? Not lupined borders,
not lemon-throated lilies, hollyhocks, roses.
A trunk blackened by fire is standing sentry
at the gate and a gust rips into our clothes
but as we clamber past flaccid stalks
we are suddenly surrounded by flocks of trees,
gasp at ripe papayas, species of palm and guava
I didn’t know existed. Fig leaves finger us,
a banana plant offers a yellow-penis flower
but I sidle past it to a passion of red blossoms –
their fruit will be Song of Solomon’s pomegranates.
Oh think of the ruby flesh within the split globes,
those seeds Persephone couldn’t resist!
Down, slowly down the track slippery as bone
to touch cliffs with many lips trickled by water
and sit sipping from bottles in an arbour
among purple petals weightless as butterflies,
to gape at a strangely emerald pool far below,
at hills humped high into the sky, the shock
of buzzard wings – their utter stillness.
And though I’ve not yet come upon the aromatics,
sniffed dittany, pennyroyal, Ophelia’s rue,
not yet bowed to the myrtle Venus loved, descended
to the old cart by the pool, found the orange groves,
though I’ve not begun to unravel the mystery
of the charred trunks marking out the route:
four brothers’ memorial to a terrible fire
which burnt many thousands of olive trees,
some centuries old, I already know this eden,
fecund as the imagination, is the original garden –
the garden we lose however often we come upon it.
© Myra Schneider
The Botanical Centre, Crete