Hell is more than half of paradise.
The cloistered garden, still and restful, home
to healing, joy, and blessing on the breeze
the scent of beadsman-violet in the loam
and sanguine rose, in beds arrayed to please
the maiden eye, refresh the feeble soul;
there the vines cling crimson on the wall.
As the bells of morning toll
above the gate, they strike and fall.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong. I hate
the stench of rue, the touch of rampion;
the creepers twist a riddle on the gate.
Burning -- the desert tears my flesh, my skin
bursts with rash and blossoms fire. I lie
buried to my neck in dust, to look within
my heart, to hope again, to watch and cry
the way that I must go to pray and sigh.
If peace is found (they say), the desert quakes.
But I am still. Bless me, Abba, for I
see boats on sulphur-winds and sandy lakes,
with Moses and the angels eating honeycakes.
Silent streams ringing the desert keep
it out; within, a slender silver tower gleams
against darkening stars behind. A sleep
that leads to honeyed rest is rich with dreams.
It’s raining out here, now. The garden seems
a deep delight, the tower a coaxing toy,
a cage without a door. My breath steams
against my face. Now I am cold. What joys
are held inside for lonely girls and frightened boys?
Already, morning’s gleaming bell has rung.
I go the way I came, on shining hair,
too late now to regret. All said, all sung.
What have I known? There’s fragrance on the air
of morning herbs—rue, and devil’s bane.
I pluck a branch of rampion instead,
laughing, though the desert waits, though hair
of red and gold lies braided on the bed,
by scarlet marks of undelighted maidenhead.
You call me from the winds, and from the sea
of burning sand, I see again.
But if a nobler garden waits for me—
you come to tell me this? What then?
I’ll climb the western wall for rampion,
and scale the tower on a golden hair
to idly play the noble champion,
horsed upon the burning air.
But these— is this my daughter, this my son?
Are these the orphan children I have won,
out of the burning tower, golden hair undone?
John Patrick Pazdziora (PGDip, Belfast Bible College) is a freelance writer and editor, and a doctoral candidate at the University of St Andrews. He lives online at The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond, and lives in Scotland in the real world, with his wife and daughter.