Archival Features, Poems

Stephen Kampa, “Watering the Garden (Till It Bursts into Flame)”

While some poems originate in incident and others in image, this poem arose from a musical motif that guided me forward (impatiens, portions), backward (patience, potions, passion’s), and then beyond as I explored other musical themes and variations (plots, spots, touch-me-nots; “rung to hear her wring harangues”; “wedded bliss” and “weeds that blaze,” “forages” and “for ages”). Listening to that music, I found myself writing a vignette about one of those homely, undersung virtues, which in addition to patience could include chastity, temperance, or humility. They are such painfully unsexy traits! Yet I believe that steadfast kindness, even in something as simple as sharing a little neighborly gardening, can invite grand passion, one that generates enough heat to be worth the wait. For that kind of passion, perhaps it helps to have a little magic—a secret potion—and all the better if that potion should be patience, finally getting its due (here in the poem if nowhere else) as not merely a sexy potion, but the sexiest. (Stephen Kampa)

Watering the Garden (Till It Bursts into Flame)

Planting impatiens, Charlotte portions out
Her plot’s next spots to plants that complement
Impatiens (also known as touch-me-nots).

Me? Neighbor rung to hear her wring harangues
Equally from her best friend’s wedded bliss
And weeds that blaze in lazy pyrotechnics

Across the lawn. I listen while I loosen
The hose’s brazen nozzle; Charlotte knows
I’ll tend to what she’s planted, Mr. Handy

Man misting fistfuls of the fitful flowers
She forages and forgets until they wither.
I diamond-dust the lot of them with water

And contemplate the weight of waiting, wanting,
This winter-into-spring song sprung to mind
While minding morning glories, mums, and blooms

Rumored the kissing cousins of jewelweed
Because I hope she finds her passion’s match in
(My fair chère, share my fire: let every chore

Be tinder tendered to the flames for ages:
Charm me, sweet charlatan: please: char me, Char)
This sexiest of secret potions, patience.

Stephen Kampa has poems published or forthcoming in The Southwest Review, The Hopkins Review, Tampa Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, First Things, Christianity and Literature, and River Styx. His first book of poems, Cracks in the Invisible, won the 2010 Hollis Summers Poetry Prize and is available from Ohio University Press. He currently teaches and works as a musician in Daytona Beach, FL.