Issue 35, Final Fringe

"Landscape Architecture" and two more poems

by Moriah L. Purdy Issue 26 05.23.2011

The source materials for these works are the papers of Frederick Law Olmsted (1822–1903).

Landscape Architecture

I. Difference from Garden

Subtract first the view.
A garden depends on enclosure—
garden, girdle, and girth
from the same root.

In the riverside park
there is now a public garden.

Plant and trim hedge
by rule and conventions—
artificial conditions.

Plots divided
lovely rectangles
     separated by chain
link and rose bush.

matters horticultural, botanical
and on a small scale decorative.

Gardens overgrown
show neglect. Park
something to grow into.

essence of gardening
having been withdrawal.

II. Landscape

Strips scenery from scene to consider only ground
a means to rule out view. Above garden, then tree.

I feel a separation.

Scape from the same root
and same significance with ship,
e.g. in friendship.

A garden is coveted. Each plot
is numbered and gated. Many times

a substantial vine limits
how much I can see. A very specific rose
is pulled through the fence.
Not at all landscape but only elements,
incidents, and features of the materials
of landscape.

At my back
     there is a park.
     A wide path bending
around open center,
     not following the curve
     of the river, reeds
six feet and higher.
     Look up. Consider
     how branches reach
          in multitudes. Consider horizon.

III. Thereby, design.

there was placed a bend
and where wandering
might export us. Observe
the wind working a very specific
grouping of trees. A duck
waddles past. The scent of rose
somewhere, yet scenery acts
in the emotional nature.
A certain sight is given. Trees
strike the city from the sky.

Autobiographical Passage: Wanderings

‘I can see that my pleasure began to be affected by      
conditions of scenery at an early age,’

Try conditions of sight. I put my gaze to the ground. I
remember the pine needles and pinching them between my
fingers. While over my head a muted gray/green persists,
the few needles that fell cluster. There is a pattern to the
falling and the slow stack built by the breeze. The needles
then, since brittle, would break. I held things in my hands

‘,—long before it could have been suspected by
others from anything that I said and before I began
to mentally connect the cause and effect of
enjoyment in it’

although, knowing how much I spoke I suspect that
speaking of this love for the feeling of the breaking would
have been voiced but no one thought enough of it to repeat
it back to me so I could claim it as memory

‘….my parents thought well to let me wander as
few parents are willing their child should’

though permission was let within a range. I’d stake the
same ground over and over, stay in sight, but the eye could
wander. I’d stay huddled under that same pine grove,
protected from the elements enough to poke and prod the
earth and stain my shins with sap and soil. Restless, yes,
enough to shift gaze from pine to chickadee, but the range
of the world was not yet within range of the senses.

Special Attention

‘Something accrues…’

some tree
and scenery

(to any
one) as a
natural growth

or increment;
by way of addition

felt over time

or distance,
ever green

‘…from special attention…’

To fix is to firm.
We specialize and
speed precision.

Stand here
and hone in
on what gaze delivers.

An evergreen provides consistency.

The grass, however,
turns green
to gray as seasons
shift and sieve
out attention.

Cast shadows
are in
diminishing returns.

Attention is a form
of homage
(someone said this,
and I am with her)

‘…continuously directed…’

so continuum
accrues focus.

All speed
reaches tree
with fresh force

‘…for many years to a particular field…’

years giving
and field giving

‘of observation and reflection…’

this ground is open.

The needled
leaves become some
line directing my gaze,

and the horizon
slopes separately

a lens formed
on a given gray day
vetting me valuable
solace, silence, and sentences

‘…giving counsel about it…’

I take this
and bring it
to a table.

Moriah L. Purdy

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Moriah L. Purdy is a poet and academic professional currently living on Maryland’s Eastern Shore where she is the Assistant Director of the Writing Center at Washington College and a lecturer in the departments of English and Education. She received an MFA from George Mason University in 2010. Her collaborative project with the ceramic artist Stephanie Rozene, Simultaneous Contrast, has been featured in an exhibit entitled DIS Arming Domesticity, curated by Gail Brown. Her poems have also been featured or are forthcoming in journals such as DIAGRAMMarginalia, and Word For/Word. Her blog can be found at