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Quince Tree and the Abandoned Garden


Quince Tree

There’s a quince tree with fruit across the street
below me in a neighbour’s garden.
I recall a black-and-white illustration
of such a tree, just after I’d learned to read,
in a book of fairy tales or saints’ stories
with suffering about to happen and last
until a happy ending or salvation.

I look at the quince tree and its hard fruit,
round and yellow against the dark green leaves.
Beyond are brown-leafed chestnuts, the silver limbs
of a birch, many-armed Shiva dancing
in front of a rectangular office block
over which is the pale blue evening sky
without a trace of cloud, infinite, empty.

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The Abandoned Garden

Do we leave the abandoned garden
by the river where ducks perch on stones,
fish point their whiskery snouts upstream
and the current sibilates on sand
and gravel as if it were something
of consequence to be repeated?
Do we leave the abandoned garden
to the politics of the bypass
on the other side where traffic bawls
interrupted by ambulances?

There’s not much to put the eye at ease
when we pass the abandoned garden;
tangles of string, planks and chicken wire,
a smother of snowdrops in late spring,
a quince tree with lichen, yellow fruit
rotting to brown then a winter black.
Is there a forgotten expression
in the language for which the bleak phrase
‘abandoned garden’ is not enough?
They’ll build a gas station in its place.

Yet it’s almost better to linger
and gaze at the abandoned garden
than move on a hundred yards or so
to the road bridge across the river
and bronze statue with blurred inscription
dedicated to Saint Someone-Else,
erected under a sycamore
by families who emigrated,
where now boys without gardens gather
to share cigarettes and deal hard drugs.

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Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay | FOR REPRESENTATION PURPOSES ONLY

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