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The Formal Gardens, and Beyond


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A. Baez

I visited an old estate today

Whose gardens, much acclaimed throughout the world,

Spread out beyond the gated entranceway

In scenic splendors gradually unfurled.

Bright potted blooms sprung beaming by the drive,

While further off, large topiary yews

Rose stoutly in the air. The site, alive

With summer, traded sunned and shaded views.

This composition—classical, restrained

Bespoke the glories of a golden age:

An equilibrium perchance ordained

By god-directors on an earthly stage.

I set off lightly down a stone-laid path

With boxwood gathered cloudlike at each side;

Here, no hint of nature’s chastening wrath

Impinged upon man’s flourishes of pride.

Proceeding, I pressed forward on a walk

Of gravel, through an arch of climbing vines

And ramblerswhere a long, inquiring stalk

Of fragrant musk rose, with its fuzzy spines,

Pressed toward my face with luscious pale-pink blooms.

Aha! At once, I almost could distill

A wayward slant within these outdoor rooms!

Though order reigned, I glimpsed some riot spill

From bush and bending bough. Each bordered sward

Spoke elegance, encasing gemlike pools

Appointed, each, with cherubs keeping guard

Yet moss had gathered round the sculpted stools.

Still rapt by these core plats, I shortly passed

Into the grounds beyonddeep green and vast.

 

 

Mincing, I issued from that inner fold

To find ahead a trilling rivulet

With flowers on either side; yet how controlled

Was even thisa cautious, cool vignette!

Nonetheless, as in some scattered spots

I’d seen before, there crept a shaggy clump

Of unmown grassa few forgotten blots

Upon this bloom-besprinkled sphere; a bump

Of wild daylilies, mowed along with lawn;

And, further yet afield, a sprawling mire

Spread forth, less fettered still. Here berries’ brawn

Arose obscenely through the bulbseach briar

Announcing more desuetude in this place

Until, at once, stopped short all tended space.

 

 

There meadows shot upshaggy, coarse, and plain;

Wiry weeds and scabbed grass, and the mad buzz

Of insects’ millions; here the splattering rain

Had mothered slug and bug and mugworts’ fuzz.

Beyond, thick woodlands, reckless and abrupt,

Loomed, calling, “Ho, enough of tended stuff!

We are The Real!” They threatened to erupt

Ah, dizzy, blowsy treesnature’s high rough

Abandon!

 

 

And so I mused upon the human mind:

Its own mild garths and cool Augustan plots

Were laid for promenadessedate, refined

A genteel garden park, it seems, of thoughts.

Or so it might appearyet gather close,

O marveling guest, round something slantwise spied:

An errant feature free of plan or pose

A rankling thing you’d wish you hadn’t eyed!

Here, stark, the prankster standsperhaps a spire

Of malice rising prideful in the air;

Perhaps a wild confusion of desire;

Perhaps a raw delusion, none too rare.

Unchecked, untrimmed, they hint at countless more

Uncomely details sprung at every edge

Of reason’s fair cross-axis, past the door

Of harmony’s last stand; truth’s final hedge.

 

Observe: my own best traits were raised by force

In soil hauled in from some more fertile strand.

My consciousness, when nature takes its course,

Still bristles, as if tended by no hand.

Stripped were the grounds from which my grace was carved;

Spaded, seeded, hoed its gaping womb

Beaten and blazed its weeds; its vermin starved

To press my brain toward paths and gorgeous bloom.

 

 

Friend, pass no further from my watered spheres,

Well-groomed to please men’s civil hands and eyes!

For past these bounds, a roiling madness rears;

The way of chaos rules and wilds arise!

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
badger11

Enjoyable AB. Some Wordsworthian rapture, but some contemporary notes too. Particularly liked the fun in...

Had mothered slug and bug and mugworts’ fuzz.

I wasn't familiar with the word desuetude, but on googling I found I liked the sound. Wasn't sure about your use of mincing? May I suggest blousy instead of blowsy.

Are there particular aspects of the poem that are causing you some doubt?

best

Phil

 

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A. Baez

Thanks, Phil, for reading through all this, and I'm glad you enjoyed it! I'm also pleased that you feel the poem melds some old and some new...that's typically my goal with poetry. The line you quoted happens to be my favorite in the whole poem, too!

I figured mincing, defined as

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Walking with an affected delicacy or fastidiousness, typically with short quick steps

was appropriate, since I find I often adopt such a self-conscious gait when I'm in fancy surroundings!

"Blowsy," defined as

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Having a sloppy or unkempt appearance or aspect : frowsy

is the meaning I was trying to convey in describing the trees.

I'm not sure I'd ever heard of the word "blousy," which apparently means

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Resembling or characteristic of a blouse; loose, flowing

but I guess that could work, too--it just depends what I most want to say!

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Are there particular aspects of the poem that are causing you some doubt?

Yes--the part starting

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And so I mused upon the human mind:

where I transition all that's preceded into a metaphor for the human psyche. I wonder if I've done this as deftly as possible; whether I've been too telly or obvious, whether it feels smooth or ranklingly unexpected, and whether it's too long or too short, especially relative to all that's preceded.

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badger11

That passage is fine. I like the the prankster.

 

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Perhaps a wild confusion of desire;

Perhaps a raw delusion, none too rare.

Like the sonic play of confusion/delusion and raw/rare.

In the UK, mincing is associated with an effeminate male.

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A. Baez

Good, glad to hear it Thanks! I'm not used to negotiating such a shift, especially in such a sweeping context.

Oh, we don't have that connotation to "mincing" over here! Interesting! 

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  • 4 weeks later...
Tinker

I normally go out of my way to avoid reading long poems. You probably already figured that out from my penchant for frivolous and/or short verse and my short attention span.   But with some time on my hands and a commitment to catch up on everything I bypassed in April, here I am.  And if I hadn't read this poem I would have missed this line:

On 3/23/2020 at 9:59 PM, A. Baez said:

Had mothered slug and bug and mugworts’ fuzz.

Best line I've read all day!  I love the whimsey and the sonics of it.    This piece is kind of mesmerizing but your line woke me up.  I needed that.  Actually the whole strophe in which I found it describes my yard where blackberries invade like hoards.  

I rather enjoyed reading this, amazed that you could maintain the alternate rhyme through out. 

~~Judi


After I wrote this, I saw Badge's comment about the same line.  It is a winner.
And yes "mincing" has been used connoting effeminate men here in the western US.  But the way you used it in this piece, I understood and never went there.   

 

 

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~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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A. Baez
Quote

I normally go out of my way to avoid reading long poems.

Actually, I do, too! And I've only ever written one other that's anywhere near this long. But for this topic, the length just felt natural. And I like the idea of being versatile in form, subject matter, and tone. (An obvious new frontier for me would be writing free verse that's actually good.)

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this poem. As a poet, it's a lot to ask of any reader. I'm sorry if this one had you almost nodding off, but I'm glad it had the tonic for that built in! I was definitely trying to hit a rankling note with the "wild side" section.

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Actually the whole strophe in which I found it describes my yard where blackberries invade like hoards.

Lol! Hopefully your two new helpers can gradually get this under control. 🙂

I'm glad to hear you also like my over-the-top "mothered" line! I like getting a bit crazy with words sometimes--English has so much to offer in that way.

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And yes "mincing" has been used connoting effeminate men here in the western US.  But the way you used it in this piece, I understood and never went there.  

Hmm! Maybe it has where I live, too, and I just don't know it! I'll have to try to find out. I'm glad that at least, the word didn't strike the wrong note for you in this poem.

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