March 2020

Back to Issue 7

Two Girls in a Garden

By Jena Woodhouse

For Nerida O’Hare


In the night I hear, or sense

the whisper of the rain, skittering across

the grass, pinpricking the dusty leaves.  


Impressions of the golden afternoon

glide into consciousness –

the sky glazing with apricot

beyond blue hills and khaki trees,

the heat still beating on our backs,

colouring our lips and cheeks;

Sylvie with a hoe and rake,

me watering the garlic beds,

the spinach, basil, baby lettuces;

petunias, unacclimatised, swooning

in their fragrances… The she-goat

bleats entreaties like a human child;

two roosters expostulate 

while pale Brahman beasts look on,

their faces elongated, lean,

between ears like propeller flukes.


I thought of Monet then, 

his vision of the waterlily pond, 

Giverny’s nuanced palette

paying homage to a gentler sun,

far removed from Capricorn,

different from our childhood home. 

He lived according to the light,

was said of Monet.* So do we,  

though in another hemisphere and century.


Russet termite mounds on gums

glow vivid in declining rays.

I see us, ageing children 

in our vintage innocence of days,

tending the same garden

for an afternoon that time elides,

rehearsing fractured schoolgirl French –

our high-school souvenirs rephrased,

syllables as tokens in a nursery game:

your move, my move; we lose, we win – 

who knows if we shall meet again?



* This quote is attributed to James Priest,

head gardener at Monet’s garden at Giverny, France.