The poem is “A Gazetteer of the Backyard (In Which Pedanius Dioscorides Takes Stock”) by Sylvia Legris (Poetry, March 2020).
It’s a Pernambuco of a backyard.
Over a span of dogged spells with this rhapsody of nature-naming I hit upon the expedient of looking up and listing terms novel to me, which were legion. It was to be a praise act with which to needle the sprawl of what this is. I gave up on that, it spread me too thin. But I do admire Legris’s achievement. I do feel taken for a ride.
The poem is divided into 3 parts with uppercase titles:
PART 1. UPROOTED THE EARLY SKY
PART 2. A PERENNIAL SAGA (BEFORE THE BLUE LAKE BUSH BEANS, THE BOLERO HYBRID CARROTS, THE MAESTRO PEAS, THE RUBY QUEEN BEETS)
PART 3. ASCLEPIADS
Here’s a taste:
Perseids seed the 3b hardiness zone. A zone of zahara starlight zinnias. Double clusters and heliotropes, sunflowers under Swift-Tuttle showers. Orbits of high heaped cloudberries. A royal poet of a sky!
My rows bode bad with wode whistle, cheatgrass, bad man’s oatmeal and yolky toadflax — a blunder garden! The missteps, the false alyssum, the prolifically prolix knapweed… a pervasive invasive creep. Taproots tapping my optimism.
Gardens of orthic dark brown soil. Calcareous dark brown. Eluviated dark brown. Humic gleysols… Gardens of nearly level topography. Of topography gently sloping or roughly undulating. Moderately sloping or gently rolling. Strongly sloping or moderately rolling. Steeply sloping or strongly rolling.
What I wish you could see in this crudely rendered drawing…
A metrical line from plant to poet to the god of physicians. A geology of medicine and herb. Not companion planting but conviviality. Plants doting on stones, metals smitten with flowers.
(c) 2020 JMN