{An Umbrella Special Feature}

Meredith Bergmann

is both a sculptor and a writer whose articles, essays, reviews and poems have appeared in the The New Criterion, The New York Review of Art, The TriQuarterly Review, Sculpture Review, and Barrow Street, among others.

Her sonnets appear in Judith Dupré’s Full of Grace and the anthology Hot Sonnets.

She is the poetry editor of the American Arts Quarterly and its related website.

As a sculptor, Meredith Bergmann is currently working on the FDR Hope Memorial for Roosevelt Island, New York City. Pictures of her work may be seen at her website.

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Gardening at Night

I grow these plants to ornament the edge,
to screen the eye and mind away from some
sharp sense of empty space above the ground.
My narrow terrace garden is the sole
inheritor of childhood’s orchards, meant
to live forever. That’s what flowers are for.

When foreign, orphaned seeds blow in from four
directions, they take root and get an edge
on hothouse heirs. I grow more than I meant
to grow. Each spring my garden sprouts a sum
of all my neighbors’, every living soul
that overhangs my artificial ground.

Sometimes I smell their coffee, freshly ground,
or lighter fluid, but not meat loaf or
my father’s favorite: filet of sole.
Their odors settle on my foliage,
and city flowers have no scent—that’s some
of what could kill me. That’s not what I meant.

This is a different kind of testament.
This is a note the air writes to the ground
at night, like dew that’s fallen. Here is some
of what the air conveys, the semaphore
the hose repeats when droplets miss the ledge
and wet the street below: For grief, console.

For wonder, you can’t only plant the sole
most likely seed. You must experiment,
and turn the sterile void beyond the edge
to fragrant lawns, to deeply tended ground,
to grass barefoot-familiar, heretofore.
Beyond the city there must still be some.

Beyond the lawns the surf is pounding some
appalling question into someone’s soul,
but I stand in the city, listening for
a car alarm or neighbor’s argument.
I have no sunny hours to tend the ground—
by television light I work this hedge.

Some of this is what I meant to say.
It’s dull to plant your sole upon the ground
for life. But it’s not time to test the edge.