In my Mother’s Garden
for Gail Hennessy
first thing from the veranda
an orchestra tuning
instruments of bright …
Kit Kelen, ‘secret no one can keep’
For an hour before dawn a secret bird
practises its song. Nine notes,
a melody neat
as an artlessly tied silk scarf,
too quicky looped &
flung around the neck of the garden
for its labour to linger in my ear.
In this drowsing twilight my dream –
harrowing empty corridors,
seeding departed rooms
with small hopes of finding my mother—
ends with a bunch of hospital flowers,
a bought garden bright in my hands
but no dented metal dipper like hers
offering a rainwater bath before a vase.
Spangled with spiderwebs her garden
makes mazes now—
narrow pathways with more room
for plants than people.
Under the curtaining wisteria
who will take banana peel
to the orchids? Who will shiver the dew
over the freesias and the thryptomene?
Who will follow her,
snipping and sniffing and accepting
the riddles of sleeping under earth
and waking seasons later
as if the secret we forget could never be
that we’re just flutter-byes,
brief flittery visitors
to these springs, premature
or predictably passing
in a wink?
Remembering our hydrangeas of childhood,
how patiently they waited for summer
to fill heads with sky-blue
I think of the man in Japan
drowned in tears after the 2011 tsunami,
searching for his family in the Fukushima ruins
until, at last, he planted canola,
a maze of rising sunshine,
a place to be happily lost.
Though it will not last forever,
the light is longer there.
It opens the faces of visitors like secrets
everyone is happy to share.
For this season of flowering, at least,
we all know
if we save the garden, the garden may save us.