Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

The Garden of Wordlessness

The Garden of Wordlessness

By J. Neil C. Garcia

The cake proves sweet as our stories,
and flushed with all that sugar
we set out for the garden on foot.
For us, dusk spills a lambent stillness:
the sun, nowhere in evidence,
endures as gleam falling at such soft angles
the world seems lit up from within, like a lamp.
A hint of scent sails from some bush.
Birdcalls flit through the leafy fretwork.
Felled by a late breeze, eggshell-white blooms
punctuate in places the dewy script of grass.
We are charmed beyond words,
who cannot live without them.
In the old story, the garden was a place
outside all description. And we think:
bereft of a voice, no one could have spoken
or recognized its grace. But we know:
pleasure purls through the stones of this silence.
This breathing and seeing and listening
suddenly, without names.
What is that tree, whose is that chirp,
how does light play tricks on the eye
when it is no longer even light?
Out on the lotus pond,
our visitor stands on a spindly leg:
brown-beaked emissary from the other side
we cannot learn the first thing about.
Attendants to the studied world,
we believe it helps to know just what he is.
A name: why should it make a difference
to bird or flowing horizon,
to flower, to feelings we keep, wordless
and beyond harm, for each other?
Fettered by no speech,
the answer takes flight
on wings the ripe color of clay.
Grace lived fully, but unsignified:
this is what paradise was, before language,
which is our fatal knowledge
tasting like bitter fruit in the mouth.


J. Neil C. Garcia

J. Neil C. Garcia is the author of numerous poetry collections and works in literary and cultural criticism. Between 1994 and 2006, he co-edited the famous Ladlad series of Philippine gay writing. He is currently working on a full-length book, a postcolonial survey and analysis of Philippine poetry in English.

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