Ballade of the Botanist
For Sister Rosemary Johnson, R.S.M.
And a river went out of the place of pleasure to water paradise.—Gn 2:10
Adam…could not have inferred from the fluidity and transparency of water that it would suffocate him….—Hume
The botany that blessed Mendel’s pisum—
Has petals come to thorns, and bliss, regret—
Our parents feet found Heraclitian streams
In Eden’s river, but their seeded rot
Despoiled its promised acres—this, despite
A course of graces flowing to present
Our arid minds a thought to irrigate:
We walked in gardens once—and that’s the point.
Perhaps our view at large accords with Hume’s—
No seed effects its fruit except to set
Starvation’s stage—the blossoming of dooms
Which man must brave alone, an oak offset
Against a desert’s thirst no rain could whet,
And only slick sidewinders’ tongues anoint
While whispering mankind’s weed-choked kismet:
“You walked in gardens once—isn’t that the point?”
But bury deep such philosophic dreams
And keep in mind that we were once well met
By sacred nomenclature’s nobler blooms—
Salvation’s scent replaced by Adam’s sweat
And thorns supplanting beauty’s own rosette—
We bled the color out of Eden, bent
Its stems and broke its limbs—and all for what?
We walked in gardens once. Is that the point?
O Prince of patch and plot, who can delete
The damage done? The everything we can’t
Repair, your greener thumb lets cultivate.
You walked in gardens once—and that’s the point.
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