I walked in the romantic garden and I walked in the garden of ruin. I walked in the green-skinned, black-skinned garden of Osiris who was ripped to pieces and reformed and adored. I walked in that wet, incestuous plot. Am I the only one who reads for innocence? I walked in the garden of Amadou Diallo whose shadow was punctured by unnumbered shafts of light leading from West Africa to America where wallets are guns. The chirp you heard in the garden as of two black holes merging is what we called the soul. And when we cup our hands to drink at his fountain we make the shape of his skull. Am I the only one who reads for thirst? I walked in the gardens of Houston where anole lizards took their colors at the borders between terror and wonder, dread and leafy glade, between silence and Sinatra. I walked in Pope’s garden in Twickenham that rhymed wilderness and picturesque, walled in and out the stunted self. In the garden of ruin new growth from the palms I read as artful, neutral. In the romantic garden the fascists sing I love you, I love you not. Statues in the gardens are wrapped in Mylar blankets and blue plastic tarps like refugees. I read them for reflection. I read for nation. I read for color and form. In the orangery of Guantanamo, in the grapevine of Babylon, I’m lost. I went there for the buzz, the fiction of silence and a better self. Dressed sentimentally in a dynamite suit in the garden of dates and pomegranates, I read for patterns of the blast.
Copyright © 2017 Bruce Smith. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017