Girl with a lamp


Listen to The art of gardening

Augustine sees Ambrose reading silently

Shore Lines



Mary Robinson

The art of gardening



The art of gardening

Karel Čapek 1890 – 1938


Gardening for you was science fiction,
a surreal future where nothing added up:

you were late that year – Saint Wenceslas’ Day –
and joked about a dearth of pots, a superfluity
of bulbs, disappearing compost, bone meal
not yet in stock – you kept on planting
like some crazed gardener’s apprentice.

Then you locked the gate to your heart’s ground.
Seeds of snow sifted against stones, the Vltava ran
gun metal grey, soot disgraced Prague’s walls.
On St Stephen’s Day miners
brought flowers to your funeral.

In that long week-end before the storm
did you foresee the blighted spring, the summer
long delayed? Your tools were snapped for kindling,
a sharp knife filched, and in the street your pots
were smashed like glass.

The clock of the seasons slurs. But each time the earth
hesitates at the year’s crossroads
those knuckled bulbs with papery skin split,
sprout, shoot petalled flame and open the gate
for Proserpina’s flowers.

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