Houseplants in the garden

When I was in Honduras back in 1996 for my brother’s wedding, I remember one day in the market how a military helicopter flew low overhead, and I realized I was the only one who wasn’t cowering.

Ten years earlier, I spent a semester in Taiwan when it was still under martial law. We foreigners habituated a couple of bars that operated illegally, in defiance of the law against gatherings of more than a dozen (?) unrelated people. I remember when the mafia started showing up and occupying tables in the corner, how all us Yanks, Aussies and Kiwis treated it as a big joke. Why were the Taiwanese owners so frightened? Couldn’t they see that these would-be gangsters had come straight from central casting?


The houseplants sit awkwardly in the garden,
like tourists at some raffish foreign port.

A gust of wind is enough to tip them over
in their ceramic pots.

It rains,
& they hardly know how to drip.

Insects avoid their glossy, odorless leaves.

After dark, under the stars,
they are the only things still shining.

They send up flower stalks
one week before the frost.


  1. I like this a lot, particularly the third and fifth stanzas. The third is wonderful.


  2. Thanks. I’m still undecided about the order of the 5th and 6th stanzas.


  3. Love the contrast and the similarities.


  4. a delightfully odd little post…thank-you


  5. I like it too. Also like the currrent order of the 5th and 6th stanzas. The 5th has a trailing feel to it, while the 6th strikes me as a “good ending” — a statement that will probably leave those who don’t give much consideration to the relationship between plants and seasons pondering for a moment, but will amuse those who do. I kind of like that thought.


  6. Hey, thanks for all the feedback. Maybe I’ll leave it alone, then. Sometimes these simple poems are the hardest ones to write, you know?

    a statement that will probably leave those who don’t give much consideration to the relationship between plants and seasons pondering for a moment
    It’s always problematic for me, deciding how much natural history knowledge to assume, how much to explain. I run into the same thing with Biblical allusions. One really has to decide who one is writing for at all times.


  7. This reminds me of the plant, to the left of your front porch.. next to the little aloe. AA


  8. Well, it was sparked by that, but I was picturing a very different garden — something much more formal, and, you know, kempt — when I wrote it.


  9. One time I went into a Taipei bathroom, New Year’s Eve 2000. When I came out, all 100 bar patrons were gone. Seems a gangster showed up and trashed the place and sent everyone running willy nilly. I was in the pissoir at just the right moment to miss everything and, apparently in reverie, couldnt hear anything.


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