• By Stewart Burke

The Garden of Lonely Pleasure


Within this garden of lonely pleasure

the living waters whisper your name.

Iris and lilac—now wild, but once tame—

herald Spring’s newfound indolent leisure.

 

Indolence is a form of insolence,

as the scented, barbed rose knows so well.

If it could talk what stories would it tell?

How can such velvet clefts claim innocence?

 

Outside this garden of lonely pleasure

the teal have left Lake Dal for wing-ways North.

Warblers build their nests, cuckoos plight their troth.

Golden oriole bides investiture.

 

Within, cherry and apple perfumes waft.

The wallcreeper’s silence belies the bright

crimson of its wings when not folded tight.

The skin of the peach reminds me how soft. . . .  

 

First in this garden of lonely pleasure

stood the mulberry grove where now tits sing.

Golden rain and torch trees and fountains bring

relief from the bright sun’s grandest gestures.  

 

Now, laughingthrush mocks the concept of walls,

reminding of man’s conceit which once built

lofty halls and towers tall and rooms gilt.

Now, the wind soughs and the sparrowhawk calls.

 

Last in this garden of lonely pleasure

am I who savor the lush profusion

amidst illusive dreams. But illusion

has no place amongst such natural treasures.

 

The eight stone terraces all now are bare,

and empty, too, the white pavilion

where once I bravely placed a vermillion

pomegranate blossom in your dark hair.


Stewart Burke lives in Arlington, VA. Retired from one of those ABC agencies, beyond writing poetry he enjoys traveling abroad and studying and teaching martial arts with his wonderful daughter. He most delights in reading in translation the classical poetry of the Near East, the Subcontinent, China, and Japan. Burke particularly savors the works in translation of Li Qingzhao, Shmuel ha-Nagid, and Hafiz. William Empson and Theodore Wratislaw are two of his favorite English-language poets.

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