Sarah Corbett

Four Poems

The Garden

After Andrew Marvell

It was a time of laurels,
a fearless time. I broke away
to write – bed in the woods,
on the river a moon of ice.
Nights unsealed, and the knot of
sleep slipped, a beat into waking.
             You came and took me like a child
             by the hand to show me the garden.

We stepped into a maze of hedges,
each leaf a flower then wings
lifting, that would have lifted me.
A border of tulips stood up
like a row of varnished nails
and I was glad of your company.
             You said it would all be gone
             by morning and we should taste it;

taste it. Sacs of green sap showed
our faces, multiple and convex
as in a hall of mirrors. Our mouths
kissed and merged, stretched
to grimaces. We had touched it
and it would remember us, an X
             on a roll of used up ribbon
             typed over itself, and again.

A field of forget-me-knots
were stars, deep as blue; we moved
through a see-through radiance
the texture of honeycombs,
honey-scented, like a thought
unvoiced at the back of the throat.
             It was too much, and you reeled
             me in to the shade of a lucent spot

where we abandoned our skins.
How mossy the ground was,
a green bed for entwining;
a spring ran down to a pool
of brightness where water lilies
budded to pink hearts that opened
             and sang with pink tongues;
             we sang with them, wordless as birds

flown to the boughs above us.
Mouths of silver uttered a lament
from a grove of birch and hazel
making a sympathetic music.
As dark faltered towards first light
we made a meal of herbs and fungi.
             You blew smoke from the fire
             of sacred things, saying them over.

A wood grew above and around us,
ash and elder running the span
of seasons through berry and seed,
naked as grief, then back to green.
In the distance a chestnut eye
and a chestnut thigh winked:
             a young oak pushed out a hip
             and a rowan shifted to woman.

Let’s be clear: this was no Eden
but a journey into the mind,
and where the mind goes gliding
beyond the shores of its ocean
finding another beyond it.
You said, this is your vision
             to be kept and told again
             in some way that fits the telling.

Our time was up. Sycamore pods
fuzzed the air, bees were busy
gathering and an apple tree,
heavily laden, hunched and shook.
I caught both fruits that fell
and rubbed them against my leg
             until they were small white suns.
             We ate in the silence, burning.


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