Red petal

Wilfred Owen's Final Garden

Certainly flowers have the easiest time on earth.

                                          Friend, be very sure
I shall be better off with plants that share
More peaceably the meadow and the shower.
Soft rains will touch me, - as they could touch once,
And nothing but the sun shall make me ware.

Chelsea Physic Garden
August 2007

Dear Wilfred Owen:

How I wish you might describe to me the evening you spent at the Chelsea Physic, before you were shipped off next day to your death in a war where they dug trenches for men, not furrows for seed.  Were you most aware of the walls, which only those living along Royal Hospital Road could enter, bringing you along?  When the heavy door swung open, were you being led into privacy or enclosure?  Was the light as it is today, yellowing beneath clouds ready for rain?  Was the August evening warm, calling flowers forth to bloom then rot, some in a single day, in a garden that houses every plant known to help and harm humankind?  Did you walk among blossoms or sit in repose, your dinner with Sassoon settling?  Perhaps you studied the poisons:  Solomon’s Seal, Hemlock, Comfrey, Belladonna, Lockspur.  Where else but at Chelsea Physic are curse and cures so aptly made of the same letters.  And rescue:  your poetry, letters and words strung with the skill you already had, your life secure, though so soon to be taken?  Or was your life given, like a word, a flower, a single moment written well?  Did you look back even briefly as you left by the thick door along Swan’s Walk?  What red petal fell across your eye?  I want its name, Wilfred Owen.  I am, most Sincerely.

"Wilfred Owen's Final Garden" was first published in North American Review









Plant on castle wall

Wilfred Owen petal


Bust of Wordsworth


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