The Poetry Porch 2: Poetry

The Gardens of Flora Baum
by Julia Budenz

Excerpts from the five-book poem in progress (now over 1,000 pages in length)

From the conclusion of Book Two, "Towards a Greek Garden," of The Gardens of Flora Baum.

First lines of quoted sections (selected by Joyce Wilson):
* "Boots are pulled on"
* "Florida, said Flora, is the land of flowers"
* "Then Circe said: It’s time for you to go"
* "Once there was a father who spun"
* "Walk with me, moon"

The following sections were selected by Joyce Wilson from the excerpt first published as FROM THE GARDENS OF FLORA BAUM by Julia Budenz (New Poets Series, Wesleyan University Press, 1984), which is available at The Grolier Poetry Book Shop.

Read Budenz's description of the five books of the poem in progress.

Amy Clampitt on Budenz:
"[Budenz’s The Gardens of Flora Baum] is part of a vision of how everything connects, of how it is possible at any moment to step from the every day into the sacred, and back again." --Amy Clampitt, p. 166, "How Everything Connects: Julia Budenz, John Ashbery, and Others," Predecessors, et cetera, essays, University of Michigan Press, 1991.

From "The Fire Escape"
by Julia Budenz

5. Season

Boots are pulled on.
The sun stops.
It is called winter.

Snow is refashioning New England.
Snow has halted New York.
Snow has glittered all day across the Plains and over the Rockies.
Along the Pacific there’s nothing but precipitation.

Here the bugs sang all last night.
Only the writhing cajeputs are white.
Under the ramrod palms you stroll in sandals through the evening light.

( © 1984 by Julia Budenz)
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From "6. Tree"
by Julia Budenz

Florida, said Flora, is the land of flowers.

From the screened porch, with its seasonable
Show of red and green—blooming
Christmas cactus, poinsettias with subtended
Inflorescence, tannenbaum with its suspended
Efflorescence, among the watering cans—
Beyond a square of screen, beyond the glare
Of the parking lot, across the glint of the road,
In the ample stripe of green beside
The path along the gold wall in front of the gold
Buildings, silver-balconied, bronze-tile-roofed
(Discreetly gold the buildings, the long wall, refined,
Although the sky is indiscreetly blue,
Blazingly, unblushingly, insistently noon-blue
In cloudless noon over stiff gold buildings), you see
The cajeputs with fuzzy tops,
With feathery, green-gray-haired heads
Lost in whitish cloudlets, with white thighs
Discreetly white. We walked along the path
Beside the line of cajeputs, along the path, along…

The trunks are finger-painted in high relief;
The foliage is brush-painted, with the vagueness
Of the brush; the flowers, from the porch, no longer
Brushes, no longer clouds, are stars.
We had seen And were come. One bole
Was straight and single, another
A couple relaxed at a cocktail party, a third
A ménage à trois (quite comfortable), a fourth,
Fifth, sixth, and seventh a loving or warring
Crossing and conjoining of enormous limbs. Through the grid
The cajeputs are wrapped below, stellar
Above, palaestral below, adagio above, earthy
Below, airy above, fleshly
Below, spirit above, at last
Shadow below, sunlight above,
White shade, green-gilded sun.
We walked along the path, along the path, along
The line of cajeputs in their attitudes.

( © 1984 by Julia Budenz)
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From "The Sheen"
by Julia Budenz

From "2. Ithaca"

Then Circe said: It’s time for you to go.
The waterlight spun on the white barber poles
As I pushed off against the current.

The pool
The four
White blos-
Soms swam.
The spar-
Kling wa-
Ter sat
In her ba-
Thing suit
With her cig-
In her tanned

Jack, too shy to hand them to her,
Had set the flowers afloat. Yes,
She was beautiful. Yes, she was
A worthy daughter of deep-browed Jupiter.
Yes, you would almost have to believe
What she was saying: And therefore the ERA
Will damage fragile balances erected
Through centuries by western civilization.
We defeated the Trojans, an Asiatic race,
And now, without fear from abroad,
If we maintain our defenses at home,
We can enjoy in peace our Hellenic blessings. Women—
I know, for I have sinned—are fitted by nature
For marriage and for religion. Let them make heaven
And take their husbands along. I must
Give up smoking. Extending her arm,
She stubbed out her cigarette. She stood up,
Stepped to the edge, tensed, waited poised,
And dived into the pool. The white
Blossoms bobbed about her in a frenzy.

( © 1984 by Julia Budenz)
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From "5. Helicon"
by Julia Budenz

Once there was a father who spun.
He couldn’t fix the faucet or a broken doll,
He couldn’t drive an auto or a needed nail,
But he could spin. Tell us a story.
You’re here. Tell us a story.

I have to get wound up, he would say,
And somehow his daughters devised a plan
Of twisting their fists near his head or his arm.
On the evening of which I speak, he would say,
And then they would not move. Their eyes,
Big, round, almost unblinking, were fixed
Upon the ever-moving thread.
On the evening of which I speak,
Annabel and Isabel were sitting
In the great green chair.

                                    From a place like that
Adventure drew through Chew-Gum Forest,
By Lolly-Pop Copse, up Sun-Up Hill,
Where the chugging bus would pass you full
Of all the girls and boys you’d know
In years to come: Elizabeth and John,
Samuel and Virginia, Celeste and Antoine—
This one tall, black-haired, black-eyed,
With a bright green collar; that one, short,
With auburn curls and a pale blue belt.

Patrick and Pericles, the Mischief-Makers,
Would play some tricks, and the Tick-Tock Dogs
Throw motion pictures in your path to lead
Explorers astray.

                           But you’d find a friend,
Maybe Philip, though he was very small,
Having been made of the last of the dough
When the Pumpernickels were baked for the tree;
Or Peter, the first to reach up his hands,
Untie the red ribbon, and jump to the floor,
And announce from the middle of the old green rug,
In the middle of the room, in the middle of the building,
In the middle of Chicago, in the middle of America,

That he was Peter Pumpernickel
And had a cousin Lily Pickle
And was made of ginger bread;
He’d a ginger coat and a ginger vest
And he did his ginger, ginger best.

( © 1984 by Julia Budenz)
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                           Walk with me, moon,
Beside neat blue luxuriance of spruces,
Beside wild silvery luxury of maples,
Beside smooth coppery lushness of the maples,
Beside amplitudinous greenery of this maple,
And stop by the steeple.
Bold, you remain in the open,
While I, half domestic, climb up on the bank,
Obscured on the mud like a slumbering duck,
But I do not sleep, I possess the moon,
She said, or its bright companionship,
Or am possessed. It dazzles now
And now transforms an island cloud
Into a habitable desert. And now
The clouds go, and the steeple and the tree
And the nighthawk, shouting, shooting, and the cat
And I and the moon possess the night.

Is possession equal to desire?
Form is that desire,
Felt and found and formed,
Informed, deformed, reformed, then
Felt and found and formed again,
Like frost, like fire,
Like waters cooled and pavements warmed,
Like something almost possessed,
Restful and never at rest.

(© 1984 by Julia Budenz)
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