RUTH ASCH

The Garden

As children, we found paradise; fenced in our granny's garden -
green and lush and smelling of the wild strawberry.

There stands a hut, of warm, whorled planks: a shed of toys and wonders
with cobweb-cornered windows, where we'd rummage things to bury

In curling ferns, snap-dragons glow, the sweet-breathed blades of pine,
and rows of verdant bushes growing every sort of berry. 

Sturdy, prickly, fan-leafed stems hang striped and furry globes,
taut with the tang of juice-bursting garnet, gold gooseberry; 

Those who would eat of fairies' grapes: the loganberries fall;  
lip-tender red of tiny nests, the sweet raspberry. 

A thrush calls in the change of spring; doves burble summer's peace;
the robin whistles, breast trimmed bright among the holly berry. 

A quiet little boy there holds a dish for birds to drink from.
I used to kiss his cool grey cheeks and lend him my own beret. 

Only on that blue lawn have I heard the white stars singing,
or hedgehog muttering to himself, munching on a berry. 

But death came to the garden, and it led us far away;
with paradise a memory of she whom we must bury.

 

By the Sea

When soft corruption, brutal blows inflict their ravages,
a saving salve is in the kiss of clear, salt water.

Now that we are ended I will take myself apart
to lathe my cheeks and tip my tongue in warm salt water.

The vastness of the sea can hold - but cannot heal a heart,
the ocean and your eyes reflect low skies in salt water.

Lank and empty, hungry, stand the huts which held the nets;  
fishing boats decay beside the lonely salt water.

Into gasping lips will gush a draught of living water,
and fill you with a slaying thirst, the cold, salt water.

A moon caught in the harbour mouth is shattered in white pieces -  
becomes the flashing smile of the darkling salt water.

Through the night a grey-voiced chanting offers steady prayer,
I fall between the dreams of floating, sinking in salt water.

Blue becomes pure mystery, emerging from the sea,
khaki, green and violet, all the moods are in salt water.  

And things will float and light will dance upon the rolling wave.
There's nothing to give back your joy like fresh, salt water.