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Two Poems
William Morris in His Disappointment Garden
Damp-squib grammar of pretty things and wild mignonette.
Quercitron bark. Old Fustic’s persistently pissy stamen,
the peony-stained wallpaper. Despite the conspicuous hot spots,
sun, chrysanthemum, coreopsis, yellow’s a letdown nevertheless.

The repeating motifs? Killers. Jasmine twill, jasmine trellis …
Trifoliate moth-traps these wool and cotton undersellers.
Envisage little chintz or corncockle (where the flower plays
but a minor part), or an indigo-discharged rose. And the bugs!

Kermes, cochineal. A scuffle of ripe and ruin among rosebud
and campion, columbine and vine. So heartsunk am I of tusser silk
and cotton velveteen. Fuffling if nothing this art of color or perish.
Lacking compassion for lac dye and up to the elbows in vermillion

melodrama … I’m dyeing, I’m dyeing …


Pedanius Dioscorides in His Backyard Plot

Once a riverbed. Now sediment and dead debris
like twigs, seeds, the birds dispersing gossip,
erroneous if well meant. Fifty kilometers an hour
the wind plagues the neighborhood with desperation.
Jackhammer clouds, an outbreak of construction
—steely crashes, natter, rat unrest. Hard at it
a hard-hat surgical crew scrapes the myelin-piping
infrastructure. Exposed road grows pylon, famine weed.

In god’s name the rototilling! The limb-sized roots.
A crypt of roots and endings. The digging never stops.
(When sun falls the medallion glass patio lanterns,
clementine and aquamarine, go up.) Clear-winged moths,
mosquitoes, a tease of tongue and … not night torpor, more
sardonic, scornful, then, like clockwork, a mockery
of egg-laying aphids (call them plant lice calls up twice
the revulsion), dripping siphunculi, sticky honeydew, the piss.

*crypt of roots and endings (Geoffrey Hill)

Sylvia Legris's latest poetry collection is Garden Physic (New Directions).