Rosa's Poetry Archives,Edna revisited

For Susan, and all her countrymen

Impression: Fog Off the Coast of Dorset

As day was born, as night is dying,
The seagull woke me with their crying;
And from the reef the mooing horn
Spoke to the waker: Day is born
And night is dying, but still the fog
On dimly looming deck and spar
Is dewy, and on the vessel's log,
And cold the first-mate's fingers are,
And wet the pen wherewith they write
"Off Portland. Fog. No land in sight."
-As night was dying, and glad to die,
And day, with dull and gloomy eye,
Lifting the sun, a smoky lamp,
Peered into the fog, that swaddled sky
And wave alike: a shifty damp
Unwieldy province, loosely ruled,
Turned over to a prince unschooled,
That he must govern with a sure hand
Straightway, not knowing sea from land.

Edna St. Vincent Millay
from Huntsman, What Quarry?



I've rediscovered one of my favorite poets, and I didn't think I could do that. So thanks to the Elevens for the collected poems. I had no idea!

from Steepletop:

How did i bear it-how could I possibly as a child,
On my narrow shoulders and pipe stem legs have supported
The fragrance and colour of the frangible hour, the deep
taste of the shallow dish?-It is not as if
I had thought, being a child, that the beautiful thing would
last: it passed as I looked at it,
Except, of course in memory-memory is the seventh
Colour in the spectrum. But I knew about-when even then,
The grapevine growing over the grey rock-the shock
Of beauty seen, noticed, for the first time-
I remember it well-and I remember where I stood-on which
side of the rock.

Already the triangular leaves on the grape-trellis are green; they
have given me no time
To report their colour as it was when I first
Came upon them, wondering if the strawberry rhubarb was up,
looking for the pretty, feared hoof-marks of deer
In the asparagus.

How did I bear it?-Now-grown up and encased
In the armor of custom, after years
Of looking at loveliness, forewarned and face to face, and no
time and too prudent
At six in the morning to accept to unendurable embrace,

I come back from the garden into the kitchen, and take off my
rubbers-the dew
is heavy and high, wetting the sock above the shoe-but I
cannot do
The housework yet.


Hostas, Peonies and The Grace Therein

It's all industry and hilarity over here.

Industry because I've been out in the garden;
hilarity because G has been 'assisting' me- planting acorns and rocks, renaming plants and digging holes for me with her yellow plastic sand shovel.

We've got some new additions to our garden family, namely a few different varieties of hostas, all in the blue/green ranges of foliage. Hostas are at once so verdant and luxurious and then so frowsty and Victorian-you half expect them to be eyeing your tank top and cut-off jeans gardening wardrobe with a disapproving eye, leaves rustling like long skirts. But I love them. I've got a learned appreciation for shade plants, especially up here in the woods, where oaks and redwoods reign supreme, and us gardeners are left scurrying about underneath, peering up at the sky through branches and muttering to ourselves, "partial to deep shade....definitely dappled. Yeah-definitely, definitely dappled" like Dustin Hoffman in 'Rain Man'. I think the hostas'll look grand with the CA natives dicentra formosa or Western bleeding heart, a sweet lil' groundcover, and Asarum caudatum, the wild ginger, which has the most startlingly ugly/beautiful flower, and is pollinated by.... (dum da dum!) banana slugs!

G helped me plant the hostas and there was much giggling over the funny bare root clumps that came in the packages-"Are we going to plant SPAGHETTI?" she repeated endlessly, and then renamed them pasta instead of hosta. She's very silly. And very punny. Definitely B's side of the family...

Also joining the neighborhood are a bed of peonies, 'Sarah Bernhardt' and another that I'm forgetting. I'm nervous about these peonies, mainly because I've never seen them grow here in SC, and because they are so classically English, and therefore a little intimidating and slightly snooty.....(sorry, Susan!) And fussy. Western Garden says to prepare the planting site 'at least several days' before the peony crowns are planted, with plenty of well-rotted manure or compost and a fertilizer high in phosphorus. Sheesh! It's like the queen is coming to tea. And I'm pretty sure they require quite cold winters, so I might be out there next January with a tray of ice cubes. If I am, B, please bring me the above picture so I can remember that they are worth the fuss (not to mention the phosphorus, manure and ice cubes you get in your cuffs.)
But they are just about incomparable for lush blooms and beautiful foliage. We're interplanting them with strawberries for G, and lots of self-sowing California poppies (Eschscholtzia californica) that just sort of 'mingle' with everyone else. They really know how to work a room.......

(thanks to 1bluecanoe, pictoscribe, IwateBuddy & David Lev for the hosta, wild ginger, peony and CA poppy pics, respectively. Lovely lovely.)


Coffee Read No.3 & Rosa's Poem

Cosmic Tilt

Can I get a message from space-
Standing here with lifted face
To recall the cosmic tilt
From true north's polarity
-just 23.5 degress-
Freed from winter's finality
And the death of green leaves.

And where is the finger that pushed
Mama earth off her axis?
And will it push my dull praxis-
Set it spinning, crazed and wild,
Not unlike a small child
Dancing on her Papa's shoes?

Heed now the signs
Swelling bud, arching stem
-behold the greening of the world-
He cometh now, with spring in His hand:
The Final Word, the First Fruits
Judging the quick and the dead.


I am such a sucker for spring's rebirth and renewal, we're supremely gleeful at this time of year, and I've got chaenomeles japonica (flowering quince) right outside my door. Every day I'm checking the bare branches, looking to see if the buds look any more swollen, impatiently wondering when they will burst forth. (Not this year, probably, I just transplanted them and I don't think they're over the shock.) It's been good to think about this poem, about the earth's tilt on it's axis bringing the seasons, and how God similarly pushes me out of my comfortable places. And how in the end, Jesus is going to bring another kind of rebirth and 'greening'-when He comes to make all things new.

Coffee Read

The Coffee Read is now available, it's a $1.00 per copy and all proceeds benefit a local family who is trying to raise money for their infant daughter's surgery. If you want a copy, let me know and I'll snag one tonight: a poetry reading in the Brickhouse coffee house after the 7pm service. (Starts maybe 8:30?) Later I'll review the thing properly, the quick read-through B and I did last night after I got back from a long production night (think: lots of folding and stapling), revealed many gems, and I've got my eye on a few that I want to post here.
I'll say it again and again, how extremely.....nourishing it is to be a part of a a church that views poetry and the arts as a natural extension of itself, not an 'edgy' add-on for the young people, or merely a tool for evangelism. It's part of letting your light "so shine, that they see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

(And thank you to JunBear for your beautiful photography!)


Rosa's Poetry Archives: In the Garden

"The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We could be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate. This gives to the typically Christian pleasure in this earth a strange touch of lightness that is almost frivolity. Nature was a solemn mother to the worshippers of Isis and Cybele. Nature was a solemn mother to Wordsworth or to Emerson. But Nature is not solemn to Francis of Assisi or to George Herbert. To St. Francis, Nature is a sister, and even a younger sister: a little, dancing sister, to be laughed at as well as loved."
-G.K. Chesterton , 'Orthodoxy'

"The design he (the gardener) imposes must be constantly modified and sometimes totally transformed by a hand stronger than his own-the hand of Nature. Maybe the art of gardening is simply the knowledge of how to hold that hand, and how to clasp it in friendship."
-Beverly Nichols , 'Garden Open Today'

During Monday night's poetry group writing session the above quotes sifted through my head into this poem:

In The Garden

in the garden today
amidst the growth and decay
of bleeding hearts, sorrel
and thyme.

teasing iris root from soil
hands enfolding the alluvial
fingers of my little
dancing sister and I.

pondering this
sacred office;
first given to Adam,
then me:

earth mover, song singer
daisy chain weaver
plant classifier
beckoner of
all insects,
beneficial and benign.

predatory wasps
nymphs & nematodes
ladybirds & lepidoptera:
you are named-
summoned and called forth.

in the garden today,
crowned with laurel and bay,
sits a child of Eden,
subduing the earth
shining like the sun.

(And thanks mum for the Beverly Nichols library cast-off. Whatta score! So that's where I get it ....)


Flotsam & Jetsam

The Other
I'm just back from a night out with The Other, as she likes to call herself (we share the same name). One of The Other's hobbies is Mystery Shopping, mainly to visit swanky restaurants and treat her freeloading friends (me) to a good meal. Tonight it was an upscale mexican restaurant in the southern end of the county. It's all there in my report- the satisfying little gurgle that vegetarian fajitas and dark beer make in the belly, the obnoxious bar atmosphere, complete with staggering baseball-capped guys and the ubiquitous Young Thing pressing an unresisting head into her tanned and slightly-clad bosom.
So The Other is unstoppable and together we plan to take over the world, but she is so very different than me: in the car after dinner, she sat for a little bit filling out paperwork. I happily settled into MacDonald's Lilith (yes, I re-read the same 20 books over and over); and she glanced over and said,"You 'reader' types! Whatever! I just don't understand the appeal!" As if I were a Civil War buff or a mushroom hunter or some other obscure enthusiast. I just read. You know, books? Those things that have sustained civilization since, well, history was first recorded- in books? Apparently, we are two halves of a brain, I read & make insight into the world around us, she figures out the tip and the time it took Server A to take our order and refill our drinks. (And lots more technical things that I don't even know the name of, mainly in the world of finance-home loans and interest (um) thingies.)
The temps were in the 70's today, so I did a little jig and then got to work in the garden, transplanting hydrangeas hither and yon, pruning salvias and leonotis, and preparing the ground for a new hosta bed. Buckets of compost on everything, and the coldframe is getting seriously overhauled. I love this time of year more than I can express-it is the hope and the new life, burgeoning shoots intersected by shafts of pale light. There is the Lewisian joy found in the ephemera of spring, that kind of joy that is tinged with sadness, because it points to a longing that cannot be fulfilled outside of heaven. Lewis called it 'The Island' in his 'Pilgrim's Regress'. (And yes, I'll probably be re-reading that one soon as well. I need some new authors, clearly.)
I wrote a new poem for the latest Coffee Read at Vintage. It's due out soon and I'll post a review here with some of my favorite pieces. I haven't written any poetry I've liked for quite a long time (I think the last time was for Graceland's art show, 'Frames', back in dickety 2....); so I was totally gratified to be able to submit something that I like enough to sign my name to.
A List: Words That Make Me Happy Right Now
Rimpley (G's word to describe how it felt to hold a sea star.)


Farewell to Meat

The etymologist in me was extremely gratified to learn that Shrove Tuesday is also known as Carnival (from the Latin, farewell to meat), because of the church's tradition of abstaining from meat during the season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday. I prefer the ignominious moniker 'Fat Tuesday', which cuts to the chase. And Fat Tuesday it has turned out to be, snacking on G's triple-layer chocolate raspberry birthday cake from the hallowed ovens of The Buttery.
I am still figuring out Lent, although it served me well last year; it was a fitting mantle to wear as I processed towards Easter. I sense the change of seasons and it is all I can do to hold in my glee- Lent helps me somehow, sobering me and reminding me of the solemnity and Ashes that must proceed the mirth of Pascal. We'll see what this new season brings.


Girl Cubs and Tummy Trouble

So the party was great. Totally Over The Top Cute, in the manner of three year old girl-child birthday parties, (read: very shrill, with lots of frenzied jumping). B decorated the manor, making trees out of craft paper and streamers; we spread out oil cloth on the living room floor and gave each guest a picnic basket. Later we went on a little walk through the woods in our sylvan burgh, blowing horns and dropping leaves over the side of the treacherous bridge that crosses Ferndell Springs. "Bye, scary bridge!" they chorused as we left. Mum made fabulous little bags out of vintage fabric from our favorite fabric store-and we filled them with treats for the girl cubs, honey sticks and gummy bears.......thanks to aunties and God-varmints (G's early attempt at "Godparents") and a guest appearance from her much-loved "Uncle Jack."

It was so much fun, it made us sick. Really. B led the way, and I'm following suit today. I can feel my head fill up with snot like a water-balloon (nice!) and B's stomach remains in a delicate state, fraught with turbulence. Only G is bouncing along like a sing-along ball, heedlessly careening into the preschool years, we have a toddler no longer. (Sniff!) And she's wiping us out. So we called Grandma Sue and she's going down to Steinbecktown for the night. (Whew!)

RX: Tea! And Sleep! And a Good Book! (Any suggestions? I'm knee-deep in Annie Dillard's Teaching a Stone to Talk but I might need something a little less....brain-using.)

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.