Flowers of Brass

[Book 5]
Earth that yields violet to brass.
Earth that smacks of ash.
Alkaline earth, bastard earth.
Earth that appeases the body and eases the mind.


Flowers of Brass [Book 5.88]


Part 1. Indissoluble Earth

This first poem about the last book is where the garden begins.
Sand and prolific dust.
Metals and earth.
Earth like small coals from a pitch tree.
Burnt red earth.
Big-veined bituminous earth.


Supreme earth has the disposition of medicine.
Earth that cools the pores.
Earth that closes cuts and heals sores.
Earths capable of absorbing acids.
Earths aluminous with spores.
The forgotten earths, the excavated.
The earths of bones and horns.


Animals and earth.
Vegetables and earth.
Geodes, whetstone, soot, and earth.


Pharmacy begins in plants.
Plants are the flesh of the Gods.
In the Kingdoms of Nature the final authority is earth.


Part 2. Flowers of Brass

The virtues of earth are the virtues
of guts, gall, metallurgy, and nerve.

Earths showy and not showy.
Earths sapid and insipid.
Earth that tastes of copper and zinc.
Earth as bland as coral and chalk.


So sits the garden in vegetable pride.
Plotted in graphite and plumbago.
Strange metals and stranger flowers.
Gold salts and leadwort, frothy silver.

A garden of Cyprian earth fired in kilns.
A garden of white lead scraped and pounded.
Flowers of cadmium from red-hot brass.
Of brass burnt from the nails of ships.


Silver slag, iron slag, lead slag.
Petals and leaves spit from earth.
Seeds of metallic scales.
Scales like glittering millet.
Brass in the pitch of thundering Zeus.
Brass in the scale of a Delphic hymn.


Part 3. Chaff

Flowers inscribed on stone.
Flowers in a single melodic line.
Alloy shavings.
The brassy chaff.
Flowers of chutzpah and cheek.


The yard is a measure of several millennia.

A yard of stars and amalgams.
A yard of grama grass and asters.
Day’s eyes and damned yellow composites.
Petals that open at dawn and close at dusk.

Flowers with conspicuous bracts.
Grasses circled by hair.
Spikelets housing tiny flowers.
Florets of malleable elements.


A choir of melicgrass.
Wry wry the wild rye!

from Garden Physic by Sylvia Legris (Granta Books, 2022)

© Sylvia Legris
With kind permission from Granta

Garden Physic by Sylvia Legris
(Granta Books, 2022)

Sylvia Legris

Sylvia Legris, a poet whose ‘work crackles with exuberant wackiness’ (CBC/Radio-Canada), was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is the author of the poetry collections The Hideous Hidden, Pneumatic Antiphonal, and Nerve Squall (winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize and Pat Lowther Award). Legris lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.