DIARY OF FLORA BAUM
Although two miles away another elm
Rose only in the mutilated beauty
Of the still lovely bole left lingering
By ruthless plague and cruel guillotine,
This elm is not acephalous, yet I,
Sinking, just some puppet of the sun,
Huddle, hungry. Buds that bead each string
Glint as I squint. My head goes up and droops.
My hands move up and drop. Are jewels fruits?
Is this then gravity? or levity?
Or rest? or motion? In one solar year,
Within one revolution, Galileo,
Pallid as winter, pale as winter’s gleam,
Wilted, chilled, in the south, set in the east,
On January eighth, and in the north
Bloomed Isaac Newton, rising in the west,
On Christmas Day, December twenty-fifth.
The year was sixteen hundred forty-two.
But the Italian, by the English date,
Died on December twenty-ninth, a year
Before, in sixteen hundred forty-one,
And, by Italian time, the Englishman
First saw the light on January fourth,
In sixteen forty-three, a later year.
Within one solar round one went, one came:
Between the twenty-ninth and twenty-fifth
Of two Decembers or between the eighth
And fourth of two successive Januaries.
We count the days three hundred sixty-one.
How do we count our years? My years have foundered.
How do we name our days? My days are numbered.
The sun is on the elm, is in the elm.
Such subtle russet bubbles gleam, such small
Baubles along, among, strings glistening.
And I am called, am pulled, am chilled, am cold.
I have not lost my head, but I am numb,
Sinking, sunk, a puppet of the sun.
Copyright © 2001 by Julia Budenz.
One of the seven parts of Book Five, “By the Tree of Knowledge,” of the
poem in five books, “The Gardens of Flora Baum.”