Espaliered tree

Asparagus in the Cloisters Garden

            So early risen each spring, sprung through the soft bed that is also dotted by Star of Bethlehem, the asparagus requires daily attention.  The monks nod by each morning, bring shears each evening.  Never was resurrection so delicious, so continuous.  Judiciously cut, so that the crown beneath the earth will never give up trying for air, the asparagus is profligate, unanimous in its shuddering stalking.
            Each night the monks eat the prodigious earth with appetites that cannot be satiated.  Each man smells the acrid mustard of his urine, and blesses even that remembrance of the garden’s gift.  Soon enough, each knows, asparagus will be replaced by radish, lettuce, carrot.
            The monks of the garden know when to quit cutting, know the limit of the plant’s exhaustive thrust.  By then, with other earth to savor—potato, beet, turnip—they let the stalks become lacy bushes.  Cardinals swoop, their beaks finding the red berries gathering at each frond.  And then the asparagus swoons, lays its golden hair on the ground.  Like the monks themselves, the crowns have stored an energy freely given.
            One final cut to the ground and each plant disappears.  The earth lies impassive, bare, waiting, but the earth knows, just as the monks do, the miracles that will be sustained, will be sustenance.  The earth waits.  The monks wait.  All winter they meditate.  They pray.  In the darkest days, they might feel a thrusting under their black robes.  They will think of asparagus, of taste and smell and spring.  Such darkness cannot overwhelm their faith. 

"Asparagus in the Cloisters Garden" first appeared in Eclipse








Compost heap

Asparagus stalk

Cross hatch garden

Datura blossom

Thistle flower

Garden shears

Dandelion seed head

Cracked earth



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