American life in poetry |

There is a long tradition of gardening poems in English poetry. Such poems find rich associations between the deliberate act of design, the organization of nature, and the art of poetry. While Jeremy Rock’s “Tender” does not slavishly echo the poetry of 17th-century gardening (that tradition’s day of faith), one senses in its contemporary take, an acknowledgment of the human impulse to see into the gardening, something of the quest and the pleasure of beauty that we find in poetry. At the end of the poem, Rock’s description of caring for the tender plants he makes dreamy allows him to celebrate the deeply humanizing power of imagination, the power, in other words, of poetry.


Not yet spring, sunlight barely reaches

passed the cursor, so I put away the indoor plants

like regents parading before the populace

and lead with the blades. Just a few cuts

before they are finished, cleaned of veins and petals

which seemed ready to come off. It is always necessary

be waist season, looking at those hands. sometimes

I sit in the sun with them and slowly drink the daylight

with ice water. In the red clay I keep the cuttings, the sisters

and muddy girls for new roots, and these

the pale stems finally learn to breathe. Otherwise

for those hungry for idyllic hamlets, where

would the flowers grow? At night I bring them back

so they can imagine what they are missing.

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