That Summer in Montpellier, the Botanic Garden

By | 1 February 2020


patois tumbling Occitan, Latin, Arabic, Hebrew
Muslim, Jew, Cathar, Christian

left a wingbeat in the sky to return to later:

cicadas chirring in their dialect

a sign, Jupiter becoming Saturn perennial becoming bush


black ants foraging for red blood

noonday sleepers on benches of dust & stone

two gardeners, hands on hips under the only unlabelled tree after searching patiently
for an hour for seedlings

raked path edges which tell of markings of desert scriptures of distant sutras

some dozens of hundreds of the fruit of the mulberry Morvus alba which fall are
falling taken only by birds

those same mechanic cicadas whirring lower than shrilling jinking soaring coasting
wheeling swallows

the bell tolling sixty seven times at seven in the evening

wandering the length of the flaneur twilight


hills, the long purple evening hills

& into darklit Theatre of Anatomy

what we should not see they say

dark closed-room aborted secrets

cut apart, torn, ripped from life

palpitating, flayed, stripped from ourselves

to ease apart the skin

to pull apart skin

to ease over the muscle

to send the knife where it will

to count throbbing organs

& the chambers of the lungs

moon bitten eaten cancered by clouds

shrivelled pain held in alcohol

in aspic blinded in vitriol in glass

the light then the lights of a distant town

the pine in Gerhard Street which enjoys

singing its cicadas


there are many reckonings
I counted them
she is on a bicycle with eleven parrots
she is on a scooter with two dogs running
she is on a stone stair with a lizard
she is alone with how many hands
what does she hold

open the light


as Garden Directors become bitter
jealous, then stone:
Rondelet, blind
Pelissier, priest, blind
Belleval, debtor, blind
Sauvages, blind
Dunal from a distance appears to see
spiders in Granel’s sockets
Galavielle with webs & pine needles in his
Martins, empty sockets
Planchon, eyeless


it is forbidden

among other things

we listen carefully
heed little among tongues

the grass
is forbidden

is a kind of music

you must hear it in
order to judge


in the nothing
in the unclear mind
in the going & coming
of water lit sun
shafts under trees


what can be
brought from here

a thousand seeds
a thousand words

a thousand arms
of compassion

peace, cicada


rooted in perfection

lotus maple osage

& the Judas tree

unassailable perhaps


a twentieth century story
of noble birth
surviving revolution
fleeing war
though not wealth
resorts to painting
what’s abstract to you
Zao says
is real to me

an old tortoise
finally in mud
what he likes best
next to painting
is to smile


mouth full of stones
olives of the region
cherries of the region
fill my mouth with songs
with song leaves


the music
& here’s the diamond
the heart
drops of water
beads of water
pearls of water
stones of water
tears of water
blood of water here

the fountain’s turned off at six in the evening
there, it is kept turned off


traced in sand
& bells pealing



sow thistle


the trees, once human
Bacchus, Jupiter, once divine
become bitter, jealous
toes thrust into myth & story
become paper & word

Thracian women see
cracked wood spreading
along their soft thighs
root as Oak

a foul mouthed shepherd’s voice
-box grown rigid, gnarled
what’s left of his tongue
become Olive

the Sungod’s daughters
tearing hair for a dead brother
tear Poplar leaves
poplar bark closing over last amber words

to be remembered
when seeds & leaves fall
into my lap &
stick in my hair
where doves come to sip

where fingers
reach down into soil
hair become willow
Rabbi Dov Lior, bitter
jealous: a thousand non-Jewish
lives’re not worth
a Jew’s fingernails


under the swallows
beside the garden

is the tramcar
direct to Odyssey


not a new game, destruction
what’s in a name, Valéry?
a garden of epithets
a dictionary garden
what do they not see
no independent arising
our garden is whose desert?

what’s in a name,
Rondelet, Pelissier, Belleval?
between tongues
a dictionary falls from lips
a self-naming
a transhumance of people
after their own horti
drawn on Tassili dune caves

what shall we say to Lior
to Saïd to Yousef
to Lbou to Hassan
Chani, Abdelhak & Tibou?

In another room
a man sings
softly oh oh
eh eh tomorrow
eh eh tomorrow

& falls asleep

a jet passes overhead.


something like history slips in
dogs bark & drop delicate turds in the street
virtuoso musicians & jazzmen
strike up in squares where
we dine on terraces

something like war elsewhere

in another room she sobs
she sobs, heart become pebbles
her sleep will turn mosquitoes
into droning planes


the whole of July

doing what
a taxonomy of reality
recognition before thought

yesterday’s flower is
no more
is to see the impermanent

as permanent
mind traces today in flower
unnoticed before

delicate white
starry jasmine
Trachelospermum jasminoides

white pink apricot red
Nerium oleander

recognised not described

today the cicadas
are reborn as cicadas
their old skins abandoned

lives walked away from
on tree trunks
the cicadas

are climbing out
of what
they would not recognise


he sings of his hidden house
in the lemon orchard

I also have a little house in a garden
just for the present

I talk to cicadas
& the fish in bubbling water

also talk of love
among these flowers


in another street he sings
I’m chocolate, chocolate that’s me

our frailty as people walking
our oddity dreaming

those who sleep soundly
are the jailers of the street


our aim to wake
another going round
we’ll grow a revolution
we’ll grow our own tongues
a lilting an utterance
sage & rue
whole vocabularies
of grapes on the vine
each fig’s a proverb
each mulberry a lyric
red tomatoes small sweet nothings
a thesaurus of cherries whispering

names cannot be sold
only given & received


it is July 14th in this
Year of Grace

he sits in the street
singing still softly

his feet are carefully

into old soiled rags


Raimon d’Avinhon
caustic trobador:
a servant
meat porter & hijacker
ruffian & trafficker
fisherman & horseman
friend of streetgirls
thief & rat catcher
stonemason drunkard
baker & writer
milliner & grocer
maker of weapons of war
swine herd
bin raker
fool to those who believe it
sage to them as find him so
a good physician
when it’s time

Did we walk the streets alone
ranting loudly each to himself
anger at our livers

Did we play Roma violins for cigarettes & coins
& abuse

we know oud was played
in the Theatre of Anatomy
& gargoyles of the old cloister gaped
& we briefly applauded the

divine in music under a new moon
shining on the west rondel of the Cathedral

& the stars the stars.

Why is peace forbidden?

Did one of us walk seventy feet up
along the acqueduct ledge
gesturing, muttering, throwing
down random wild flowers – weeds
upturned faces at pavement cafes
a pause in Midi Libre
not wanting to jump
but there anyway

Did another sit patient, begging
in that square
dedicated to the Martyrs of the Resistance
pennies in an ashtray
marked 3 centuries


dandelion, that piss-a-bed
simples for cures

what simple for cloudwalking
on acqueducts

sweet winter rains
now’s the time


coming & going

to listen than talk

is a state of mind

back in the chair

& heels flat against a cool wall

of cicadas striking hot stone


shapely the mind learns to walk

of bars on the insides of eyes


& the very planes of light

is a state of mind

right into the heart (it moves)

gone with the dappling leaves

chambers of sunlight


garden riddles

who stole the stars
& dropped them in the dust?

who stole the sun
& gave us each a piece?
the orange

who stole the rain
& sent it straight up again?

who stole water
& turned it to wine?
the grape

who stole time
& sent it spiralling?

who stole our labour
& turned it to gold?
the king

who stole the gold
& gave it liquid flesh?
koi carp

who stole the fattest carp
from the king’s garden?
the hanged man


at night
back from sleep

I ask droning mosquitoes
to bite me

leave alone
flesh of the one I hold


I’ve counted the measure
of the plane leaf in fives

each not one but
not in its own tongue

it wasn’t rain but
pattering of zelkova

seed & green distressed
by wind & heat

size of raindrops
dusting the place of trees


to consider form
the whole long leaf

lit afternoon
considering seeds


to consider time
the cicadas chirred

three times a second
for endless minutes

on edge
magpies at counterpoint


clapping game of a mother
with her daughter

syncopation of water
striking bamboo

& reddening
pod by pod day by

day along the month
of Italian lilies

to send a blaze
through woodland floor


one noon in another
room in open air

with a handful of
hot radishes, some bread

cracking almonds, drinking
wine dregs,

in the mouth of
Arnaut Daniel

il miglior fabbro

it’s better made
in mother tongue

& the alouette
cackled at that


eyes dance with leaf
the other side of veins

petulant, the sun king points
to clouds once more

with moon
beyond his reach


one two three four
five six seven & eight times

shadow of moving water
shade of a singing voice

sleep is the bridge
to mother tongue


herder of hills
little runner of waters

what is emptiness

Roch, in the seventeenth

year of his age, not yet a saint
set out on pilgrimage

to a place older than God
older than that grove

at the source of the Verdus
where Diana bathed

(& for setting eyes on her
turned another to a stag

torn apart by his own hounds)
& simply helped

pustulent sufferers
of the black death.

Roch, no spring in his step
but autumn revealed

the way he took
the road which walks itself


here water leaps
toward frog kingdoms

ponds swallow
with a smack of lips

in a republic of water
all princes end

their days squatting
under the meniscus

jumping at
every common footfall


plant misery
harvest anger

heart of a heart
in the old city
a garden
in the old garden
an old tree
its old trunk grown in
& clasping itself
writhing with a hundred eyes
& gargoyling wooden mouths
arthritic mother’s skin
stretched luminous over bone

in old mouths
wishes are posted
paper scraps

I have need of money

I hope to be serene

for the health of my family

I want a job

that my sisters stay happy as I left them

love & prosperity to the end

Diderot, I hope our story continues

peace in Israel
peace in Palestine
peace in Iraq

who thanks the tree
with leaves of tongue

in the old garden
in the old city

that those I made suffer
may forgive

the practice of compassion


holly-leaved oak
mulberry with plane leaves
tansy-leaved phacelia
whole-leaved jaborose
lamb-leaf Tartary

maple with leaves of ash


to sit where
the salamander sage

creeps out for sun
sage of the Himalayas

sage of the Nile
sage of Iranian mountains

sage of Turkestan
sage of the woods

sage of the boreal


remember that first night
you left before dawn

here in the shade of trees
day never breaks

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