Boboli Gardens


We come to the garden,
surrounded by unwatching eyes
set in grimacing frozen faces,

ears that do not tremble
to the vibration of birdsong in the air,
rigid hands that reach out

but can never grasp or even touch,
riven noses (why are they always
first to go?) unable to enjoy

the fragrance of the gentlest flower.
And what to say about the tongues?
Stonestill as if caught mid-word

with no way to finish the thought,
complete the image, not one, not one
of them to sing the mystery,

except by what can only be called
the greatest of all miracles,
a warming to life.


Written for dVerse on the occasion of their third anniversary. Dedicated to poets everywhere who are attempting to see, hear, smell, touch, and speak of what we experience.

James Thurber: It takes away from the beauty of the flowers anyway

Humorist and cartoonist James Thurber, Dec. 8, 1894-Nov. 2, 1961. Very funny man. Famously bad eyesight. I appreciate the several levels of meaning in this bit of humor:

(Credit: Wiki Commons)
I passed all the other courses that I took at my University, but I could never pass botany. This was because all botany students had to spend several hours a week in a laboratory looking through a microscope at plant cells, and I could never see through a microscope. I never once saw a cell through a microscope. This used to enrage my instructor. He would wander around the laboratory pleased with the progress all the students were making in drawing the involved and, so I am told, interesting structure of flower cells, until he came to me. I would just be standing there. “I can’t see anything,” I would say. He would begin patiently enough, explaining how anybody can see through a microscope, but he would always end up in a fury, claiming that I could too see through a microscope but just pretended that I couldn’t. “It takes away from the beauty of flowers anyway,” I used to tell him. “We are not concerned with beauty in this course,” he would say. “We are concerned solely with what I may call the mechanics of flars.” “Well,” I’d say, “I can’t see anything.” “Try it just once again,” he’d say, and I would put my eye to the microscope and see nothing at all, except now and again a nebulous milky substance—a phenomenon of maladjustment. You were supposed to see a vivid, restless clockwork of sharply defined plant cells. “I see what looks like a lot of milk,” I would tell him. This, he claimed, was the result of my not having adjusted the microscope properly, so he would readjust it for me, or rather, for himself. And I would look again and see milk.

                                         –James Thurber, from My Life and Hard Times