Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Gardener of Neither-this-nor-thats

Another entry for The Directory of Imaginary Poems, poetry inspired by The Dictionary of Imaginary Places.

The entry that inspired this poem reads:
"TANJE, a place in ATVATABAR some fifty miles by pneumatic tube from CALNOGOR. Notable are the gardens, where the evolutionary link from plants to animals, the phytes, are preserved. There are more than two hundred species of phytes in the gardens of Tanje Palace, including the lilasure (a bird-like fern), the green gazzle of Glockett (a flying weed) and the yarphappy (an ape-like flower).

(William R. Bradshaw, The Goddess of Atvatabar, being the History of the Discovery of the Interior World and Conquest of Atvatabar, New York, 1892).

by Tabatha Yeatts

He began as a scientist,
this gardener of neither-this-nor-thats,

an explorer, peeling back the world
to prod at the layers underneath.

On one such expedition—
a trip sponsored by Tanje's Grand Vizier—

a search for drinking water
led the scientist to a fern

that made him question his sanity.
“Dehydration can cause hallucinations,”

he murmured
as he fingered the wing-shaped leaves.

At the sound of the bird-song
sweetly ringing from the fern's green beak,

he sat heavily on the grass.

There were more in-betweens
weeds that dove down on their prey from above,

blooms with gorilla-jowls and drooping petal-arms,
vines that braided their own leaves,

bushes that licked their thin, green lips.
Collecting the beast-plants

was delicate work. More than anything,
he meant them to live, to thrive,

to want for nothing,
though they were as alien to the scientist

as the Vizier, whose name he
unofficially assigned to the ape-faced flower.

The scientist's doting attentions
brought them home alive

and he set about building a garden.
He had taken care to record

the plants' locations related to each other,
aware that he was not the god of this world,

and that they had an order
he did not understand.

When the Grand Vizier ordered him
to move the bat-buds next to the fanged ivy,

told him to heighten the garden's appeal
by carving out a "dangerous" area in the back

and assembling a "beautiful" section
near the wooing bench,

the gardener planned their escape,
and the Vizier woke

to find a desolate yard,
with only one sagging plant

next to the wooing bench
with odd, simian flowers

that reminded him of something.



LInda Baie said...

Oh, Tabatha, truly here is an imaginary garden! And the quote from which it came, so intriguing that it was crafted long ago. I love the thought that someone discovered it, and then made it go away, perhaps for a later time, or for protection? And the feelings you introduced: "At the sound of the bird-song
sweetly ringing from the fern's green beak,

he sat heavily on the grass." Imagining is just terrific, isn't it? Thank you!

Author Amok said...

"an explorer, peeling back the world/ to prod at the layers underneath" -- a job description for scientists and poets. I enjoyed reading this Tabatha, though I'm unfamiliar with the source material.