A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
On a day of just bearable June heat
after the summer solstice, a quiet Sunday
as Edward Snowden is flying into Moscow,
I am studying photos
of a Northside garden:
fuchsias in the baskets, geraniums
in the flower pots on the railing.
I think: Those glass blocks near the lattice
shimmer like icescape.
Glass by Corning
of Pittsburgh, now known too for bankruptcy
& asbestos. The trials drag on; the clients die.
I know lawyers on both sides.
Geraniums are reliably pliant. You start them
from stem cuttings, root them in perlite & peat moss,
you can even dig them up, push away the soil,
then hang them in the basement for the winter.
Then replant, they’ll bloom for months.
What do the neighbors see
as they gaze down from behind thin curtains?
October rains muddying the bricks,
a day-by-day cascade of leaves.
the faux oriental rug gone, then the lawn chairs.
The first bright snow, the glittering ice,
then dirty snow & rain,
then Easter as the birds come back,
perhaps a frog, then dragonflies
until the earth rises in the heat of June. Someone
brings back the rug, the lawn chairs & the fuchsias bloom.
Will the neighbors be watching from their windows
Our hosts just back from Ecuador.
25,000 species, 10% of all the world’s plants grow there.
Ferns & horsetails & orchids & ancient forests.
The Ecuadorians, a resilient people, starting with natives
of the Amazon, just ask the Incas & the Spanish,
the Peruvians. The government Socialist, but not high
on freedom of expression.
three years in jail, a $40 million fine for a column
that offends the president.
I start reading about Corning glass, all the modern uses.
Glass block for hurricanes, blast-resistant glass,
high-security glass that, if unlucky, we might see
from inside some prison.
A friend sends me the words of Václav Havel:
Keep the company of those who seek the truth.
Run from those who have found it.
I like the shadows of this garden,
a place where nothing’s altogether clear,
a place for orchids & moody contemplation,
a good place for begonias.
Copyright 2016 Joan E. Bauer. This poem was commissioned for the City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s “Writers in the Garden” event, September 2013.