Unfurling in My Garden
I sometimes enjoy paging through old poetry chapbooks—collections lovingly handbound, offered as gifts (often at Christmas) to friends and family. For many years, this was my primary way of sharing the poems, offering a glimpse to others of this part of my work/play.
Almost always, the reading of the poem brings forth a memory of the physical location associated with its creation. This one emerged during the time when I was living in the third-floor attic space—converted into a funky one-bedroom apartment—of a house in Madison, Wisconsin.
The house was just a stone’s throw from the shore of Lake Monona: a favorite destination for morning walks. It also featured a lovely front porch with a wooden swing; and on each side of the house, beds of flowers interspersed with vibrant ferns. It was the ferns that—on one spring day—inspired this poem.
Unfurling in my garden:
schools of seahorses standing at attention
floating in the dewy grass, pensive.
Or young cobras baring their throats
extending their tongues and
coaxing open the clenched fist of winter:
spreading its fingers as their own, thin green antennae
sounding to the waves of the sun, saying good morning
to their tulip neighbors, much less stately—
frivolous in light-yellow gowns—
but good company.
And I mourn, for a moment
their fiddlehead cousins, arranged beautifully
on my plate last night,
drawn from the ocean of their earth
just days after birth—
still curled like shells, mere potential
great with drawn butter, and tender—
fate having chosen their unfurling
through me, pen on paper in lawn-chair
instead of with tulips
as their neighbors.
~ Elizabeth Reninger