The Garden of the Dead *
|Click to enlarge.
Spring is late coming, bleeding hearts
and bachelor buttons, rain on the scented lilacs.
Here are the iris—small, intensely blue,
the bearded yellow iris, lavender ones,
some a pale rust or cinnamon colour.
In a garden near the park, deep purple iris
unfurl from their pointed bud,
so dark they are almost black.
I've never seen this colour iris, solemnly
tinged like the Queen of the Night tulip.
Large, showy petals drape dramatically
as if sheer fabric. They are stately,
sombre, funereal—this dark clump
among the lively hued flowers.
I have often written about
the miracle of spring returning—
first tender shoots of saffron crocus,
the perfect white camellia;
poems that celebrate Eve and her many gardens
full of flowers, fruit, abundance—
giant zinnias as colourful as if cut
from children's construction paper.
But now my poem is an elegy
for the harvest of the dead;
an offering for those who feel loss
and who will continue to grieve;
a tribute for those who kept their courage alive
when they became a grisly kind of gardener
as they dug, ploughed, and raked
through the garden of the dead:
not empty, but filled with memory,
with literal pieces of each individual's life.
This garden is planted with parts of corpses,
planted with fear and panic and tears,
planted with the seeds of war—
and now, as poet, I write
my poem about a garden
unlike all the other edens of growth.
May the garden of the dead
grow tolerance and peace,
grow wisdom and learning,
grow love and healing
in this new century.
It has been a late spring,
unusually cold—it was difficult
to force the new growth forward
but trees have fresh, mint-coloured leaves,
flowers are unfolding, deep purple iris
among the yellow and blue and lavender ones.
* And the cleanup of the World Trade Center remains has reached
completion. A worker whose job entailed raking the fields of debris
looking for human remains, described his function in an NPR interview
as, "a gardener gardening in the garden of the dead".
Copyright by Carolyn Zonailo: www.carolynzonailo.com,