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Not the Sweet Cicely of Gerardes Herball

    (i.e. Oriental Myrrh, not English Myrrh)

Margaret Avison
From:   Winter Sun. London: Routledge, Kegan Paul, 1960. p.12-13.

Myrrh, bitter myrrh, diagonal,
Divides my gardenless gardens
Incredibly as far as the eye reaches
In this falling terrain.
Low-curled in rams-horn thickets,
With hedge-solid purposefulness
It unscrolls, glistening,
Where else the stones are white,
Sky blue.
No beetles move. No birds pass over.
The stone house is cold.
The cement has crumbled from the steps.
The gardens here, or fields,
Are weedless, not from cultivation but from
Sour unfructifying November gutters,
From winds that bore no fennel seeds,
Finally, from a sun purifying, harsh, like
Sea-salt.
The stubbled grass, dragonfly-green,
Between the stones, was not so tended.
mild animals with round unsmiling heads
Cropped unprotested, unprotesting
(After the rind of ice
Wore off the collarbones of shallow shelving rock)
And went their ways.

The bitter myrrh
Cannot revive a house abandoned.
Time has bleached out the final characters
Of a too-open Scripture.
Under the staring day
This rabbinical gloss rustles its
Leaves of living darkness.

With the maps lost, the voyages
Cancelled by legislation years ago,
This is become a territory without name.
No householder survives
To marvel on the threshold
Even when the evening myrrh raises
An aromatic incense for
Far ivory nostrils
Set in the vertical plane of ancient pride.



Margaret Avison's works copyright © to the author.


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