Fragments from a Statuary Garden
Kathryn Rantala

I meant to write more about something else but was distracted continually by the De Chirico print, L'Angoisse du depart, a thing so confident of its place it could have been somewhere else and chosen this, before, in advance. I don't know why it feels like that, but that's what I thought, and principally, it made me remember the bulbs and what I had done to them. Asleep, dead, alive, who was I to say they must be everything?

In a few days I had enacted one violence after another, now planting, now wringing tea from bags I had exposed to light and scalded. Though the anguished leave, they seldom go intact.

De Chirico did not paint the box in the foreground, he painted the shadow on it, its impending absence, the explanatory puff in the distance, the voice it gives no voice to. And the Dresdner monkey, the porcelain violinist in the Harry Lane print next to it, the tailed musician flanked by roses -- Harry painted that but he did not paint the variety of petals, their green reflective vase or the drape, seductive as silk, falling against the table. I don't know how all those things even got there. It was not my fault; nor mine the perturbations of white light.


Part of me descended into that unseen area below my desk, a place, as under a small shrub, that does not need my thinking about it, and began to fumble around in the dark. The longer my hand was away from me, moving further and further, the more vulnerable I felt -- stuck out there in possibility; I mean, who knows? My hand was almost a thing of its own, going resolvedly forward (though what it understood of true search I don't know), and in a kind of alarm I bent down a bit more and leaned in so I could see it again and as I did so, for the briefest of moments I thought I saw another hand approaching from the opposite direction, feeling toward mine as if to seek it out. Well, I do not believe in mirrors and the evening was getting on and on so I stood up and let the whole matter go.


I decided I wanted to plant something near the lucifers, take out the rhododendron, erect a trellis, a pergola, gazebo -- to stake out change quickly while the beast, digesting beyond reach, forgot awhile to run at the fence, slam it, barrel into it again and again, bending and cracking it until he could burst through, tearing his face, his skin, his feet with splinters and nails and causing God knows what.


Desire is the most unaccommodating sense. I often spoke about the pond in small texts, how snails swept it clean everyday. I did not speak about the island.

One day under water all the pond animals died all at once, why I don't know, their skeletons and shells woven together as a reef.


She was there in the shade garden of the north side when I moved in: the simple "Sophia," a circulating stone fountain, prominent among the hostas and Japanese maples, obscured from the deck, the koi pond, the lindens, the round herb garden.

Her head-mounted vessel tipped relentlessly, spilling water down her front and back, baptizing her to the point of whatever death was left to her. Watching for just a while made me tired and want to sit down.

There were no inscriptions other than her name so I could not tell who made her -- she who splashed elegance so casually, as if it did not cost.

As circular as yearning; as ghosts that cannot kiss; beauty poured to pour again -- what good could come of this. She looked at me deliberately, like the moon.

The rest of the garden was sparsely planted, not over-grown, not anything for Rousseau -- no red sun, no jaguar on the man or on the man's shadow (whichever it is that flees), and yet something dies in it just the same, year after year.


Beyond my fence with its sturdy, close-fitting boards, I believe there are trees in fine rich soil covering old lava sheets and, among the trees, luxuriant bunch grass.

This garden has a continental climate. In steady cline from maritime influences it is its own small region of mild relief ringed by larger classical forms: the orators, maidens, swans and mythical beasts. Beside a lilac I placed a sphere that hosted four equidistant bees.

I have identified my garden's temperate zones: the soil, loess, rocks, plains, hillocks, crest; the ridges, hills, ranges and peaks -- all of which, though I know nothing of fractals, repeat the world in nature as, by lettering, the images by draftsmen bring objects into being.

In the mail, a packet of postcards: La Porte Saint-Denis, the Pyramid of Cestius, Teatro Anatomico of Padua.


Sunday, the traditional morning of regret, I woke in worry in the dark, my imagination awash with images of animals scrabbling, twigs cracking and beaks tearing the tenders that hold things up; of fish tossed and strangling on a stone. Anything can happen in a place that shows its scars to you.

I am no naïf, I know that things disappear, that vessels break and prints go unidentified. A car does, machines do, the earth and dogs do doggedly the most unimaginable things. An unrelenting stratum of trouble rises and does its ruptive best -- though I like to presume that my familiars in it still wait for me, unmolested, by the stair.

I shook myself in alarm, threw on my clothes, snapped back the shades, turned on the lights, washed the dishes, vacuumed the carpets, straightened the pictures and adjusted the chairs into smaller and smaller conversation groups.

Then I buckled up my high mud boots, put on my woolly coat with the two rows of buttons, my aviator's hat with the down ear-flaps and strode solidly across the room.

I opened wide the paneled door to the back yard. My eyes took in everything they could and threatened to keep looking.


At the Deli, as the clerk made a sandwich for me, I saw a washcloth come very close to touching a slice of bread. When served, I peeled off the crust though this exposed everything and made containment less certain.

At that point I'd spent all the money I had on me so I went home to bury myself in a book. A car honked at me as I cleared the road.


I believe that in their hearts even the smallest animals sense what they are.

My feet cramp. I seldom go out. Each sunny day hurts my eyes. My fingers tighten in the cold and turn white. At night my heart weighs itself against its better deeds and is not lightened.

Often I have appointments so plain I cannot even think what they are for.