contrast

by MELISSA MATTHEWSON


    
There is a notion I have about gardens: what is a network of bodies all structured into grains and
blooms, where justice is not a thing concerned with the natural world, as in, each flower contains its
own diversity—the fuchsia and savory, both an equal in the garden, no subject of discrimination a part
of their botanical landscape, no way to cheapen the physique of chiffon and lace, of colors both
cinnamon and walnut shaped into a scaffold of petals. Noble are the amaranth and blue glitter sparkling
against the day, the salvia and sun ball, all dignified and impressive. Were it that we looked upon the
diversity of people as we did the variegation of a flower garden. Think of the underground economy
then, of root tangles, of the strands of fungus that grow the blooms, the complexity of symbiosis, as rich
under the dirt as above. Such wealth in diversity, such character in a mosaic of layers. In the evening
outside my door, twin swallows take residence on the fence, a line that runs beneath the power line and
all around, the chicory and timothy lengthen out and spill. What else: the variance of a checkerspot and
beetle, swept meadows stocked in Queen Anne’s Lace, blackberry, potatoes, ash and willow—all
harmonious in their incongruity. 
                                                           A memory: I used to go to Venice Beach as a girl to watch the ghetto                 
                                                           blaster punks and boardwalk poets, the chainsaw dreads and fortune
                                                           tellers, all those brown and white bodies thrown against sand and ocean             
                                                           creating fantasy and dream with salt in their curls. It impressed me then                 
                                                           to watch and revel at what: difference, freedom, unity, but                         
                                                           not that. I was a spectator—how naive I was, how little I knew, how                 
                                                           little we all know when young, and the liberty I was allowed: I                     
                                                           could leave behind the sewered alleys and waterfront at any time        
                                                           for my middle class swimming pool with the gardeners blowing leaves                     
                                                           on concrete and Bob Dylan on the vinyl, the substrate of southern                 
                                                           California soils carrying a width of paradise and grass measured in                 
                                                           squares. I think, I can grow a garden thick with black flowers if I want                     
                                                           to: the chocolate lily or hellebore. Maybe cosmos. Or riot completely                     
                                                           and plant beets in spirals. I can write here of the epikarst, a place of     
                                                           accumulation and fracture, of water stationed in the earth                     
                                                           between soil and rock, an in-between place, a vault of interstices,                     
                                                           a well of organisms hosting fate and futures. I can write here about the                     
                                                           vast network of     boxes I keep in my basement, all teeming with seeds     
                                                           that disperse equity and sovereignty to the world just by working a hole                 
                                                           in the soil and placing desire into the ground just like that. The                    
                                                           garden then, is a gathering of miscellany, an assembly of style and                 
                                                           assortment, where beauty is composed in mineral and silt, in pistil and                 
                                                           fiber, trunk and bloom.