sheen of stoma, pith of summer, and a sky grown clear

MoMA’s sculpture garden has Isa Genzken’s 28-foot rose and the New York Botanical Garden, (May through September) “Great American Gardens of the Early 20th Century and the Extraordinary Women who Designed Them” along with a range of programs about women who wrote about them and photographed them as well as the poetry of Edna St Vincent Millay along this year’s Poetry Walk. Eavan Boland chose the Millay poems displayed on placards in the garden. Ruth Stone, Eavan Boland, and Edna St Vincent Millay bring the sheen of stoma, the pith of summer, and a sky grown clear.


THE FIG TREE

Old as the world,
lithe and smooth,
her skin cool as a python's,
she offers fat tongues of syrup
embedded with her seeds.
Through lobed waxed leaves,
she gathers light for the tiny ones,
the sheen of stoma,
the enzymic chlorophyll,
drawing up with her powerful veins
exact minerals for each cell.
How calm, like a lover waiting in the garden,
her pale trunk curving, sinuous,
dripping her raw smell in the carnal air.
She sways while a thousand beating wings
deflower her.

— Ruth Stone


A WOMAN PAINTED ON A LEAF

I found it among curios and silver.
in the pureness of wintry light.

A woman painted on a leaf.

Fine lines drawn on a veined surface
in a handmade frame.

This is not my face. Neither did I draw it.

A leaf falls in a garden.
The moon cools its aftermath of sap.
The pith of summer dries out in starlight.

A woman is inscribed there.

This is not death. It is the terrible
suspension of life.

I want a poem
I can grow old in. I want a poem I can die in.

I want to take
this dried-out face,
as you take a starling from behind iron,
and return it to its element of air, of ending —

so that autumn
which was once
the hard look of stars,
the frown on a gardener's face,
a gradual bronzing of the distance,

will be,
from now on,
a crisp tinder underfoot. Cheekbones. Eyes. Will be
a mouth crying out. Let me.

Let me die.

— Eavan Boland


RENASCENCE

I know not how such things can be;
I only know there came to me
A fragrance such as never clings
To aught save happy living things;
A sound as of some joyous elf
Singing sweet songs to please himself,
And, through and over everything,
A sense of glad awakening.
The grass, a-tiptoe at my ear,
Whispering to me I could hear;
I felt the rain’s cool finger-tips
Brushed tenderly across my lips,
Laid gently on my sealèd sight,
And all at once the heavy night
Fell from my eyes and I could see,—
A drenched and dripping apple-tree,
A last long line of silver rain,
A sky grown clear and blue again.
And as I looked a quickening gust
Of wind blew up to me and thrust
Into my face a miracle
Of orchard-breath, and with the smell,—
I know not how such things can be!—
I breathed my soul back into me.
…
(excerpted)

— Edna St. Vincent Millay