Earthly Delights

by S. K. Kelen

It was about the time
tiger balm and a host of liniments
entered mainstream consciousness
I found the best path through
galloping middle age
was the garden path.
Gardening brought an easy oneness
with the good itchy things of the soil—
a time to get acquainted—
helped dispel storm and stress.
Resuming the ex-marital home
I’d found the backyard baked
hard clay, not a blade of grass
grew on that cruel hard bole.
Turned the topsoil, laid the seed
I started growing a lawn
initially watering every second day
and after two weeks
a delicate but deep green pelt sprouted—
any 17th century aristocrat would think fine
though it was mostly couch and budget seed
a bit of strawberry clover that didn’t come
to much at first, but the grass
grew fast and green.
The lawn was beautiful, alive.
An unforgiving Summer
left it almost bare again.
Tough yellow grass tufts
survived, clumping like islands
succoured by a slow drip from the hose.
This time around adding lime and compost
(with earth worms) made the soil
softer and it held water.
Seeding across the seasons,
an occasional deep watering,
and some fortuitous Spring rain
a lucky storm and a few days
good soaking helped re-establish.
The lawn grew variegated with rye, blue
grass, couch and some strawberry clover.
The major features of the garden were
in place, shrubs and trees: a white flowering
cherry and two thriving wattles,
spread their branches in the sunlight.
(Grevillea won’t grow here unless they’re spoilt.)
In the mornings nectar-sucking birds arrive.
Rescued from tangles of honeysuckle & ivy,
Gardenia, azaleas and roses bloom
a kind of gratitude for being there.
Elm, birch and gum branches crowd
toward the sun. The oversized golden ash
shades the yard and keeps the earth in place.
Each year the camellias bloom stronger
and the poppies, daffodils and tulips
grow back, bring the flower beds respectability.
The weeds are generally well behaved.
The lawn is beautiful, alive.
Gardeners know one day they’ll
be calling their creations
the gardens of paradise. For now
there’s a space called rough patch
where nothing good will grow,
the place gardeners might indulge
a favourite whimsy, or
dream distant flower parks,
an arboretum where oak trees groan
or a hot house tangled with genius orchids
and Venus Fly-traps. Gardeners know
the earth should be under the fingernails
that prayers for rain are sometimes answered
and where things are in the garden.

S. K. Kelen's picture

S. K. Kelen is a widely published Australian poet. His most recent books are Goddess of Mercy (Brandl & Schlesinger, 2002), and Earthly Delights (Pandanus Press, 2006)

Last updated July 19, 2011