Literary Hook: A poem for the summer gardener

This is the time of summer for fruition and harvest. Gardens are blooming in their fullest.

Since Rockford is a “City of Gardens,” it seemed to me a garden poem might be appropriate this time of year.

I have been a passionate gardener for a couple of decades. As with most gardeners, the process has been trial and error. Eventually, I began to understand how and why some plants flourish and others don’t, even if I follow directions for their care.

The garden is a place of magic, mystique, mystery and spiritual significance. Genesis begins with a garden paradise. St. Francis cultivated a garden with birds. Some of us have the collective notion that as Joni Mitchell once sang, “And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” People go on garden pilgrimages near and far.

Now, as the green movement gains momentum, more people try to care for the earth and the garden. All over Rockford, you see delightful gardens of every sort. People have reached a critical mass in this country regarding stewardship of the earth. Though I wrote this sonnet several years ago, when I looked at it today, I thought it applied to our current “green” state of affairs. It is a spiritual poem as well as a green poem. I hope it works on several levels, and that you might bring some experience to the poem.

Despite what well-meaning English teachers may have taught you, it is OK to interpret the poem as you wish. Art, after all, is a shared experience.


Because the price of wisdom is so high…

Like trumpet vines in wild fruition,

Wisdom tangles and spirals towards the sky

And cannot be controlled. Come, completion

Of roots, bulbs, and seeds. Flowers and trees

Become. Deep within the soil grow.

Essence of red roses in summer’s breeze.

Yet inward, wisdom to the rich river

Goes, nourished by the inland sea’s fresh flow.

Then the receiver becomes the giver.

The price of wisdom is so high because

Paradise is a garden returned to

Bruised, where only mercy and nature’s laws

Inform the open heart. Red nose renew.

Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet who has written several books of poetry and formerly wrote a column called “The Writer’s Garret” for this newspaper.

from the Aug 8-14, 2007, issue

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