I spent mornings barrowing down manure;
I was down on the plot late into the evening,
struggling to force sticks into sun-baked ground,
using aluminium foil to scare away birds,
a cocktail of chemical traps and potions—
proof of vitriol for anything that disrupts lawns,
lining up plants like soldiers,
daft horrors underplanted with ivy.
A buzzard dropped a dead rabbit nearby.
There was a sense of time unraveling,
the scent of somnolent roses,
the potency of a bluebell wood in bloom,
yew hedges immaculately sculpted into scallops,
drifts of Scabeous, a shimmering matrix of Deschampsia,
self-sown pepper trees marring the view.
You must be willing to be ruthless,
cut back hard the gaudy displays.
Killing off a rose isn’t so easy.
Occasionally you wonder.
Not to do so were unkind and immoral,
while the wood beneath you weakens
and the knot garden succumbs to blight.
The edge of the map looms,
alive as the sun sets and moon rises:
glimpses of the Matilija canyon,
the Queen’s racing colours,
purple, gold, black and scarlet.
With precious little help,
with relentless tenacity
and occasional waves of vertigo,
I stretched a thin wire
across the spot that rooted me,
across things that will outstay my abandonment.
Absurdities in the pursuit of paradise,
I half-hacked them and laid them over,
cut the heart in two and dipped it in oil,
wiped the inking off the plate.
Source: Gardens Illustrated, 2013-2016
Method: I once completed an exercise using several required words in a poem. For similarly inspiring words, I skimmed issues of Gardens Illustrated, copying words and phrases up to seven words in length. I found myself using these snippets differently than intended, arranging and rearranging them until in my mind they became a single voice. This character and I added punctuation, capital letters, and the occasional transition. I am profoundly grateful to the authors whose phrases were borrowed. “Miss Wilmott’s Ghost” is the cultivar name for an Eryngium that flowers white rather than the typical blue. I know nothing about the real, eponymous Miss Wilmott.
Sonya C. Brown, Assistant Editor of Glint online literary journal, lives in Maryland with her family, two elderly dogs, two middle-aged cats, four young chickens, and countless alter egos.