Charlotte Mandel’s ninth book of poetry, Through a Garden Gate with color photographs by Vincent Covello, is newly available from David Robert Books. Previous books include two poem-novellas of feminist biblical revision—The Life of Mary and The Marriages of Jacob. Her awards include the 2012 New Jersey Poets Prize and two fellowships in poetry from New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Learn more at her website.
Excerpt from Through a Garden Gate
David Robert Books
© Charlotte Mandel & Vincent Covello 2015
“Through a Garden Gate invites you to a rare interweave of three arts—poetry, landscape design, and photography. The poems of Charlotte Mandel, inspired as she walked in the garden settings created by Vincent Covello, appear in this book face to face with Covello’s stunning color photographs. The poems and photographs offer sensory experience as seasons change—water falling over rocks, sunrise aglow between standing stones, flash of lightning in a night sky, summer blossoms, winter icicles. This book opens the garden gate—enter.”
This Garden World
trying to find words, I simply breathe instead—
the fragrances blend into a narcotic infusion
one wants never to end
April Interim: Flowering Cherry Shading a centuries-worn stone border of a well where woven reed buckets dipped empty and rose full the tree's branches curve downward to sweep the grass a motion we address in trees as ‘weeping’. Not in sadness do the branches sway but in breeze-sent dance, blossoms friable, not to be rubbed between fingers, not to ripen into edible fruit. Blink an eye and the petals never were. What lasts are the months bare branches have tangled a network strong against wind-sent sheathings of ice that sparkled in frozen sunshine and summer's heat-hardened leaves. In a sudden April interim, buds open. Pass by a day earlier, see only winter's network of dark wood. Days later, a crown of green foliage. Do not walk past too quickly or you will miss an open secret.
Look Now Bronze oak leaves like cupped hands offer rainwater my form in shadow passing Dissolved in the welcome of an upturned notched leaf how should I ever be thirsty?
Perigee from My Balcony The moon in its orbit tonight will be at its closest point to earth Completed luminous disc could I play you like a dvd on my computer what would be seen and heard Lamp of infinite naming - I can not envision sphere of trodden rock Moon rocks in museums are tourist-collected artifacts not the truth of sky adored in the planetarium that spider/dinosaur machine which projected a cosmos Tonight my world exists starless airplane-free Sounds of avenue traffic like the sea’s musical rhythms surf’s advance retreat played by lunar pull Smoky nimbus surrounds the glowing disc Misty rays begin to descend towards my right hand forming circles and jabs on a paper’s blue lines Breathing the light my body like rising tide ripples and smiles
Chinese Garden Open the gate of weathered wood to invisible strollers observing sun moon stars. Leafless twigs bare nodes of blossom. Breathe the sounding spray of waterfall. Walk the papery crush of pine needles. A single hibiscus trembles, old flower unsought by summer bees, white-winged frill flaccid, yet inner purple flares, yellow stamen defiant. Descend past spiked clusters of laurel, follow the clamor frothing over rocks cascading to a wide round pond’s concentric circles dotted by gold buds of fish and watchful frogs. Stone formation guards the pool like a lion couchant, easeful power where water rock and trees intertwine place in the universe. A stone slab bridges the stream. From within a stand of slender oak face the second gate, circle inside a square frame. A small ancient boat awaits. Sail into ultimate center where water springs upwards and renews. The third gate of solid seasoned wood conceals what lies beyond. Rusted iron latch and pull rings will not open today. Let the garden teach patience in changes of earth, water, rock, wind, the play of wills by a gardener who has gazed at starved ground, a straggle of brush and skeletal trees, and said, “Let there be this.”
The Waiting Time All night have fallen uncounted thousands of ice crystals one by one each its own six-pointed star. White and silent, the garden world waits, bearing the weight of peace. Spruce needle branches bend as if to stroke the hidden earth. Slim oak and hickory trees stand exposed motionless in cold windless air. The woods' animals are burrowed deep to sleep enclosed in one another's slow-pulsing bodies warm in fur-insulated darkness tunneled beside tree roots, like them at rest and alive.