By David St. John
Vivian St. John (1981-1974)
There is a train inside this iris:
You think I'm crazy, & like to say boyish
& outrageous things. No, there is
A train inside this iris.
It's a child's finger bearded in black banners.
A single window like a child's nail,
A darkened porthole lit by the white, angular face
Of an old woman, or perhaps the boy beside her in the stuffy,
Hot compartment. Her hair is silver, & sweeps
Back off her forehead, onto her cold and bruised shoulders.
The prairies fail along Chicago. Past the five
Lakes. Into the black woods of her New York; & as I bend
Close above the iris, I see the train
Drive deep into the damp heart of its stem, & the gravel
Of the garden path
Cracks under my feet as I walk this long corridor
Of elms, arched
Like the ceiling of a French railway pier where a boy
With pale curls holding
A fresh iris is waving goodbye to a grandmother, gazing
A long time
Into the flower, as if he were looking some great
Distance, or down an empty garden path & he believes a man
Is walking toward him, working
Dull shears in one hand; & now believe me: The train
Is gone. The old woman is dead, & the boy. The iris curls,
On its stalk, in the shade
Of those elms: Where something like the icy & bitter fragrance
In the wake of a woman who's just swept past you on her way
& you remain.
We have been out from morning till late in the evening -- first at the Maryland Zoo, where most of the animals are still in their outdoor exhibits despite the chilly weather, then at the Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory & Botanic Gardens in Druid Hill Park next to the zoo, then for a quick food stop, then at Wheaton Regional Park's Garden of Lights, and finally at dinner at the mall with gblvr who was unexpectedly in my area replacing a computer battery so I got the unexpected pleasure of seeing her! The zoo is not at all crowded at this time of year, so although not all the animals are in their outdoor enclosures, anyone visiting gets to see the ones that are practically as private visitors. We went through the African and Arctic regions, where the leopards, rhinos, foxes, and snowy owls were all awake and active, as well as the playful elephants and chimpanzees (plus we saw deer in the woods on the tram getting to the animals, though no prairie dogs waiting for the tram). The conservatory is right near the zoo, so we went to see the poinsettia display, which is arranged around historic Baltimore storefronts. The camera lens fogged up very badly there and in the indoor monkey enclosure at the zoo, but it was nice and warm for a few minutes.
There was a lot of traffic on I-95, and we realized that our timing might be good to arrive at Brookside Gardens right when the light show was opening for the evening (we've missed it the past two years because there were hour-long waits just to get into the parking lots). We were a bit early, so we stopped in a grocery store to grab some things we needed and arrived at the park just as the main parking lot was opening for the evening, at which point it was very easy to park and walk through the gardens unimpeded by crowds. We visited the model train exhibit in the conservatory there and went on the winter garden walk, which was chilly but beautiful with all the mini-light creatures in the otherwise empty fountains and mini-light geese and turtles in the pond. Then we headed toward home and dinner, at which point I had talked to gblvr, and once the kids heard I might be going to the mall, they wanted to come have Subway and Sbarro instead of leftovers. So we all had dinner together, gblvr and I did a bit of girly shopping, then I came home with my family and watched the very fun Tennessee-North Carolina double-overtime in the Music City Bowl.
The snowy owl demonstrates that owls really can turn their heads all the way around.
The arctic fox may look lazy, but this is about as awake as we've ever seen him!
The African penguins contemplate swimming in very cold water. When we arrived, every single penguin waddled inside because a zookeeper was breaking up the ice in the water for them. Eventually they reemerged, though they didn't look enthusiastic about the weather.
The poinsettia exhibit at the Baltimore Conservatory celebrates the hub of Baltimore's old shopping district at Lexington and Howard Streets, where Hutzler Brothers department store used to be.
This giraffe at the Garden of Lights (which I called the Rainbow Giraffe, causing much snickering by Adam) has 9000 lights.
Here are some of the light roses in the outdoor garden walk.
And here is the Brookside Gardens Conservatory model train display, including a miniature of Brookside Gardens in the foreground beneath the train going over the bridge.