Ferns: A Study – Michael Gessner

From his pose in the garden
Just as his voice became
My own, Froebel stepped into the evening

Of my dream for his uncommon love
Of the young and with his notes
At the close of another century
Collected from an elemental source
Of children, my children of the forest
And the perpetual lily pond mad for the end,
Playing and sometimes translucent
Against the sun endowed with beauty
Which has become commonplace
And for beauty’s tension they never cease
From the pursuit of themselves
As though they inhabit this place
Only to breed themselves to death by error.

As forests were once ferns
And ferns infant in the dumb morning
Existing of notions
Which were also geometries
Copious among us

As they were always among us
Even in the dreams of the twelfth-century girls
Dreaming at the edge of the forest
In anticipation of the unimagined season,

The caress and the still life
Of ferns
On seacoasts and on the white porches
Of summer homes
Or hung from the platforms of wooden depots,
How they bowed along the boulevards
Welcoming victors to the city,
And atop cool Corinthian planters
In the lobbies of grand hotels
There were ferns
In the background of photographs,
Pharmacies and funeral parlors,
And in the corridors of museums
Positioned carefully below milky skylights
That are sealed and permit no entry,

But most in a memory of children
There were ferns
Copious, still and sometimes swaying
In the settings of their stories,
In the stories of their sleep.

First published in Pacific Review
Collected in SURFACES (March Street Press)

Posted in Blog.


  1. “Only to breed themselves to death by error.”

    How absolutely stunning.

    Yes, a beautiful read, just beautiful…

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