The fifth in a series of five Holy Week posts on the Pray Channel at Humane Pursuits: a garden poem by Julie Carmean
I follow You into the garden.
Or do You follow me?
In the cool of a spring evening,
Fresh grasses grow high, some low, tipped with limpid gold,
Draped in gauzy, weeping willows.
Still waters saturate
White lily roots and pads, aglow in sunlit
Hues of lavender and pink.
These waters still my soul and
Echo a timber bridge that echoes a certain tree.
Your favorite place might be a garden.
Do you like Monsieur Monet’s?
Can You smell his sweet, blooming flowers, fertile soil?
How does it pale to Your first earth garden?
That garden of delight—
Where You made your masterpiece
And blew the breath of life,
Where work was wondrous, play exuberant,
And You approved it all.
But, in that first garden,
No central wooden bridge enlightened, but a beguiling tree
A tree of pride, of pseudo-independence, self-consciousness, and fear.
And in Act One, one act removed a sovereign state of glory—
That innocent veil—a gossamer mist,
In which they saw no other way but Yours.
But a corrupted tree, a rotten fruit, a Tempter—
That insidious spoiler.
“Alert! The Eden Garden is now closed.”
And we were forbidden to freely walk inside that place with You.
Dare I ask, dear Sir, dear Friend, about another garden?
The one in which You humbly knelt at only thirty-three
(A stone’s throw away from me)
Where ancient olive trees unfurled
Their gnarly bark beneath Your knees,
Betrayal hovering near Your cheek,
Disappointment causing sleep
In Your close companions.
Yet at the olive press, submitting to the trial
You received Your final cup…or You received mine?
In that Garden of Gethsemane
Was it there where You foresaw
The building of my bridge?
Not painted turquoise in a frame, but on a lonely hill,
Two brown beams, crossing over,
An intersecting structure
Converging eyes from every age
The Was, The Is, and Is To Come
Untainted life poured out—
Surrendered once, for all.
Verdant, now You come to me
Back in Giverny, asking only for belief?
You awaken me, like dubious Thomas, with Your hand
Holes; holding; crossing into the dawning sunlight.
The bridge to the other side
Across to resurrection life
Exchanging – You for me, me for You
Causing lilies to erupt
Crisp, white blossoms, pure, soft Nymphaea.
Opening, floating up, and out, toward me, like a Word.
You say, “My companion,
Let the deep waters of your soul mirror Mine,
Brushstroke upon layer, I paint your water garden
You—the enduring joy set before Me;
I—your desire fulfilled, your Tree of Life.
Live in the garden.
Till it, create in it, bask, remain in it!”
And as the angel cleared Your tombstone blockade,
You roll away my doubt.
And together we walk over love’s sure bridge
To the other side of the cross, where you restore our paradise.
[Photo: Claude Monet, The Japanese Footbridge, 1899, National Gallery of Art, Gift of Victoria Nebeker Coberly, in memory of her son John W. Mudd, and Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg]
Julie Carmean is an educator at the National Gallery of Art. She is also a friend, a daughter, a sister, a writer, a listener, an amateur tea connoisseur, and a wave watcher, among a few other things. She holds a master’s degree from Harvard University and a bachelor’s from Oral Roberts University. The ideas she expresses here are solely her own and are not representative of the National Gallery of Art or the U.S. government.