Reclaiming the Strawberries


A tangle of horsetail, buttercup and dock
choked the sporadic triple leaf or bud,
                  frail in the dark--
only by verbal habit "the strawberry bed."

Grappling with that maze on hands and knees
(though the occasional berry found was sweet
                  to tongue and nose)
yielded too little to be worth the sweat.

Something drastic had to be done to foil
my headstrong garden's rage to revert to woods:
                  feeling a fool,
I culled the plants as though to conserve the weeds.

Richard II's husbandry, Richard III
and Ely's irrelevant errand drifted past
                  as, thread by thread,
that plot, unraveled, proved as complex as Proust.

Though, indeed, grosser. I hoped from the mess
to retrieve enough to start over, expected to fail:
                  the harvested mass
of runners and rootlets crammed five cartons full

and hardly crimped the profusion. When hoes and rakes
proved too feeble, the roto-till's dogged bites,
                 jouncing off rocks,
dropped it, churned it, chopped it to bits.

Crippling hours of spadework followed to raise,
manure and measure, lay out by the book,
                  symmetrical rows;
five full cartons uprooted, two put back:

order triumphant, chaos given form,
evenly spaced audacities, new-green and pert--
                  Fecundity Farm--
latent energies poised eighteen inches apart.

There passed the sleekest doe, with gentle eyes;
coy and fastidious was the mien she bore.
                  Stripping with ease,
she slipped from sight and left the garden bare.

A breathless moment after she had fled,
into the vacuum, as from a crumbling dike,
                  broke the flood:
a tangle of horsetail, buttercup and dock.


William Matchett, Airplants: Selected Poems, Antrim House, 2013.