Death Visits the Garden

There he is among the gradual ferns.
The coneflowers are a purple darkened
in the sky’s gray, and him nearby.
He is putting his whole hood
over the hyssop, lowering his bone nose
for the scent. Can you get the fragrance?
I ask and he says not enough.

We are familiars; we know each other.
He fits in among the livid daisies,
and nervous birds don’t mind that he putters
among the seed under the birdfeeder
fingering the milkweed, touching the basil,
raising that articulate hand bunched with green
to his skull again, inhaling.


Oh I love this, he says, I love this,
folding basil leaves into his cloak.
Pick some weeds, I say. Make yourself useful.
Green violet plants stagger the grass.
Bees roll in serial clover.
From high limbs, birds insist on something.
I am useful, he argues, and in that wild moment
I saw his armies of bone buried in the field.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

More: Poetry

The latest from america

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, is pictured in a 2017 photo (CNS photo/Bob Roller) 
The case shows the mystifying complexity of the human person—or at least this human person.
James Martin, S.J.July 16, 2018
A front-page article published July 16 detailed the alleged abuse of two seminarians in the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, by then-Bishop Theodore E. McCarrick.
Elsie Fisher (photo: A24)
Bo Burnham’s new movie is a joyous reminder that 13 is not, in fact, the best year of your life.
John AndersonJuly 16, 2018
A couple gets married in Stockholm, Sweden, in this 2013 file photo. (CNS photo/Fredrik Sandberg, EPA) 
“The right of Catholics to express disagreement with their leaders is a right as old as Peter and Paul.”
The EditorsJuly 16, 2018