I was looking for you in the garden.
Above pink poppies and white cleome
I saw scarlet blossoms, a sweet cluster
I could not name without you near. Then
A strange voice came from the juniper
Against the wall, asking my name,
The high, cracked voice of an old woman
Hiding herself from mankind and the sun.
So. She has turned herself into a tree.
I introduced myself to the guardian spirit.
She said, “Aha! You must be the poet!”
When I asked her how she knew that,
She said she was so old she knew everything.
“I know when to come in out of the sun,
When to see or be seen, speak or listen;
I know when I’m too weary for gardening.”
I wanted to ask if she had seen a young
Woman nearby, but held my tongue,
Asking instead if she could name the flower
Whose scarlet petals in bracts tinted red
Shone on high stalks. “Bee-balm,” she said.
“Bees love it, all very well if you’re a bee,
But not fit for a serious man or an old lady.
Now, here’s a plant made for your poetry.
Blue sage: Breeds wisdom and maybe
Immortality. Take some of these
And leave the scarlet for the honey bees.”
— This poem appears in the October 6, 2014, print issue of National Review.