Heidi Garnett: Verse & Context
Withering into the Bulb
In June, glacier lilies take what sustenance
they can from shallow alpine soil
and thrust up through snow,
thaw the frozen ground with their leaves
so they bloom for a week, attract bees
before they're drawn back into the bulb.
I drive the washboard road
to the parking lot, climb through spruce
and pine for an hour before the view opens.
Lilies grown together, a yellow Tibetan carpet
fitted to the walls of the mountains.
I stay to the raised path,
try to avoid flowers as I thread my way
between them to the sheep herder's cabin
a mile ahead. I know it well,
so small it barely holds bed and chair.
Yet, a window and a view, a log to sit on,
a straggled copse to break the wind.
Cirrus clouds rush across the sky.
Tattered remnants of snow
cling to shaded spots, frayed prayer cloths,
a season with its silk torn open
so wishes can blow through,
a gentle leaving.
This poem is about one of my favourite hikes in Wells Gray Provincial Park. I try to hike the alpine meadows on Trophy Mountain once a year with my daughter; either the early bloom in June, or the late bloom in August. The meadows are startling because they're so open and flowers stretch to the horizon. Sometimes it feels like walking through Dorothy's dream in the Land of Oz. The glacier lilies are particularly poignant because their blossom time only lasts ten days, and they want so desperately to bloom despite the lingering snow.
Some women are worn smooth by love,
shoulders, elbows, faces
soft and open. They dig in gardens,
plant irises and delphinium, pansies,
the blue ones.
This is a very simple poem about how love transforms us without our even being aware of it; the colour blue significant somehow, and digging in the ground.
White flowers ask forgiveness.
They can't help themselves.
Their color predisposes them,
an absence wanting to be filled.
Another in a series of short flower poems. My daughter's first boyfriend introduced me to the idea of giving white flowers when you've hurt someone. When visiting us, he came downstairs one morning and said he
had to find a florist immediately to buy a bouquet of white flowers because he'd said something unkind. We did find white flowers, and I've since given them myself when I wish to apologize to someone. White seems so appropriate.
It's a small thing
to dig in the earth,
dig shade deep
into the soil;
to trim the lilac bush
so the shadow
standing behind it
steps into the light.
The idea that digging in the earth isn't small at all, says it I think.
red cat tails hurrying
through our hands;
our old friend
grew a jungle of them
behind her modest bungalow
on Francis Avenue.
In the fall
when the tails burst
into millet seed
she'd have tied them
to the laundry posts
for the birds to eat,
the small song birds
on their way to Mexico.
This poem is about our first good friends in Kelowna when we moved here in the early seventies. Dorothy and her husband, Gerald, were an older couple who lived across the alley from us on Francis Avenue. Gerald worked for Sears in the furniture department and Dorothy was a stay at home wife who loved gardening and birds. Each year, for the migrating songbirds, she planted what we called chenille plants long fuzzy maroon flowering heads that develop into millet seed. The poem tells the rest.
Gerald died of emphysema shortly after retiring, and Dorothy became a regular guest at our dinner table. She always dressed and spoke intelligently and impeccably. We moved her to Ottawa to be with her daughter in 2001, where she died two years later. Before she left, she gave us three Christmas roses, seldom seen in local gardens then. We still have one plant which blooms all winter long. The other two were given to ardent gardeners, one whose home has since been on the Garden Tour. Each Christmas we especially remember Dorothy when we bring the cut flowers into the house.
Heidi Garnett has been published in numerous literary magazines including Event, Contemporary Verse 2, The New Quarterly, Antigonish Review and Room of One's Own. Her first book of poetry, Phosphorus, was published by Thistledown Press in 2006. Her work has also been read on CBC radio and won the Joyce Dunn Memorial Award at the Shuswap Writer's Festival.