Selections from Complaint in the Garden

Randall Mann


      This is the
   the rain in north Florida:
rain on the fanned fronds of the saw palmetto;
on the forked bracts of mock bishop’s-weed.

      The gray floodgates
   of the heavens are open—
thunder, God’s rage; random lightning, right as rain.
   the weathermen are often wrong—

      you believe them,
   not having yet lost your faith.
Now a storm, soon a cataclysm of rain—
   A poncho? No, you have forgotten.
      See how water

   assaults the lone fireweed,
its ground getting more disturbed. Never again
I curse
   the ground
, lied God, in the beginning.

Complaint in the Garden

Sir George Somers, Bermuda, 1609

The slender, leggy spiders
found among our drinking cans
and the linen in the chests—

I blame the month of August.
I blame English seed, the radishes
that came to no proof,

that will never thrive.
I blame a kind of Melontha,
the worms I never saw,

the toads, snakes, and creeping,
hurtful beasts I never saw.
I blame archipelagos, all five hundred;

the goodly Bay.
I blame the soil of the entire island:
one and the same: dark, red,

sandy, dry, and incapable.
My Lord, I blame their god of thunder.


The Lady Wishfort

      But when I was young
and glittering below the houselights
  in my beaded taffeta
      and honored by all

      but the leather boys
as the Princess of the Wedding Gowns,
  and every Saturday night
on cue—
     Ave Maria

     was my name back then.
And the queens of greater Orlando
  came out in force to see me
to wed
     some lucky straight boy

    chosen from the crowd.
Each Saturday I wore a new gown.
  “ Love Will Keep Us Together,”
Only Just
    Begun”—I did all

    the seventies songs
worth a damn. But too soon Orlando
  switched to Disco Inferno,
         lovesick lip-synch
    my six-month downfall.

     It’s been twenty years
since I packed up my duct tape. I’m back.
  Now? I wear a girdle. Now
         I paint my
    with a thicker base.


Social Life

Hickories. Ash. Feathery-leafed locusts.
The wide green fields lay
in the distance, the cattle

up to their knees in clover, the world
filled with scudding shadows.
Who understood the darkness of the soil

under the broad lapping leaves
of mottled tobacco?
Robins foraging in the grass

for their greedy yellowthroats,
or far off, in the dirt, white-shirted,
singing ploughers following their slow

teams in the fresh furrows?
On the long porch of the weatherboard home,
the young gentlemen veiled

their evil, their doctrine—
maxima reverentia pueris debetur
that of a language long dead.

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