Cultiver Notre Jardin

olive trre for poem

As Candide counselled, I tend my garden,
About fifteen square metres, not big;
I think of it when I go to sleep
An inventory of every plant and twig,
In my whole life, I never gardened
But when I moved here, four years ago
It was such a small thing but my own
I learned to dig and plant, to prune and mow
The grass was virgin. There was a box tree
In a pot and just one strip of earth
I made more beds and planted lavender,
And snowdrops and crocuses for the spring rebirth.
Snow fell the day I moved in,
A long, late February day,
In the early darkness the new home
Glowed on a cardboard disarray,
The boxes of my stuff, pared down
To downsize from the semi-detatched,
I loved this new-build flat; the new-build garden
Was not least the reason I felt well-matched.
I bought ceanothus and caryopteris
For their cerulean flower and dark leaf
Rose bushes, York white, Lancaster red,
Continuing the fragrance motif,
Spring bulbs made a poor show,
Tulips keeling over in the beds
And tall, etiolated daffodils,
With prematurely brown and crispy heads;
My favourite, lilies of the valley
Notoriously difficult to rear
Are scant although I plant profusely
Yet every May a few of them appear.
After the spring equinox,
I adorn my garden with solar lights
Coloured bulbs sparkle amongst the jasmine
On the wooden trellis through summer nights.
In my first year I bought an olive tree
A metre high, now it reaches out
And up, leaves argentine green,
With biblical grace and Sicilian clout.
The olive tree is the jewel in the crown
And it thrives, its trunk thickens
It rises, it extends, endures winter
Then grows yet more when the earth quickens.
‘Tend our garden’ said Candide, how rightly,
The flourishing olive tree seems to suggest
That this is the best of all possible worlds,
Although we doubt that all is for the best.

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