Simpleton: An Essay


A friend of mine, a poet, wrote: How  do raindrops house all the components of a man or a woman?

I was alone all day. I was not of myself.

I wanted simple talk. There was no one in my vicinity.

The light of October was all about.

Jung said each of us has two souls.

I stood in my garden in the light that is so terribly insufficient.

I was helpless before the end of the day.

I traced the veins of the oak leaf that had fallen beside me.

“What an amateur you are,” I thought. “What a jester, talking to yourself in the raspberry bushes.”

“Lean your head on the larch, my boy…”

Think of D.H. Lawrence:

And the larch that is only a column, it goes up too tall to see:
and the balsam-pines that are blue with the grey-blue blueness of
     things from the sea,
and the young copper beech, its leaves red-rosy at the ends
how still they are together, they stand so still
in the thunder air, all strangers to one another

as the green grass glows upwards, strangers in the silent garden.

So I think to myself: to be a creature of moods is one thing; knowing what to do with them is another.

Ah, there’s the rub. Do moods have to be productive?

Must we go on and on as the children of Freud?

I am sad, or more accurately, “tender”.

This is simply a fact like a shoe horn or a dropped glove.

Garden sadness…

Robert Louis Stevenson to the wind:

“O you that are so strong and cold,

O blower, are you young or old?

Are you a beast of field and tree,

Or just a stronger child than me?”


Garden sadness is the stronger child.


I pull berries off a yew tree. Walk in a slow arc. Find that my lips are moving. What am I saying? Maybe I’m turning into a Victorian poet in her garden, say someone like Violet Fane? 


“Let me arise and open the gate,
to breathe the wild warm air of the heath,
And to let in Love, and to let out Hate,
And anger at living and scorn of Fate,
To let in Life, and to let out Death.”

By my yew tree I think of the Victorians and their fevers, poxes, how opening the gate of the garden is akin to opening the window of a sickroom and letting in the air of health as well as of heath—“to let in Life, and to let out Death” is really the poetics of Florence Nightingale.

The garden is a ruse; we hope to abjure thoughts of dying; but death appears there, has always appeared there.

“I want death to find me planting my cabbages,” said Montaigne.

And of course that’s where the old rummy will find you.

One thinks of Fernand Lequenne, the botanist who remarked:


“If you really want to draw close to your garden, you must remember
first of all that you are dealing with a being that lives and dies; like the
human body, with its poor flesh, its illnesses at times repugnant. One must
not always see it dressed up for a ball, manicured and immaculate.”


Understood this way, my garden is as melancholy as I am. My garden is young Werther. My garden is crazy. The poor thing. No wonder the wind is soughing in the unkempt willow. God help us, the whole world is a sallow and neurasthenic poet.


Silly. Talking in the garden, uttering old New England cliches:

“Bless the flowers and the weeds, my birds and bees.”

I was alone. I was not of myself.

It was a cold day. It was sharp in my heart. Come my love, my autumn garden, let us lie down together. It was sharp in our shared heart. O I was not of myself I tell you.