By chance, I bumped into an ex-work colleague at the opening of the Riverside Studios on the northside of the Thames next to Hamersmith Bridge. Whilst catching up on what we had both been up to since last meeting up, the subject of topiary came up (when doesn’t it when talking with the Chairman of the European Boxwood and Topiary Society!) and my friend said he had written a poem with topiary as the theme.
Let me tell you a bit about my ex-work colleague, his name is Robert Seatter and he’s Head of BBC History, a poet, an actor, a performer, broadcaster and arts professional. On the poetry side of things, he is the author of four collections, Travelling to the Fish Orchards, On the Beach with Chet Baker, Writing King Kong, all from Seren publishers and most recently The Book of Snow.
I’m delighted to say, he agreed to share the poem with our topiary friendly audience via the EBTS UK website. Here’s a few words from him to introduce the poem:
‘I’ve always been fascinated by topiary, its ornateness and artistry, and the way it often appears in the most unlikely garden contexts – not just mansions and palaces. In this poem, it’s also a metaphor for what goes hidden in a relationship, as the wife suddenly sees her husband’s passion for topiary in a new light, revealing his wild imagination and desire!’
The Topiarist´s Wife
Up close, she saw the hornbeam
as leaf and shadow, shadow
and leaf, counted with precision
each nick and cut, the industry
of his fingers in the early summer hours
before she´d ever left his bed.
Stepping backwards she caught
at specific shapes before her eyes:
head of a bird, blade of a wing,
what his mind could make
out of the cool suburban air,
serration, perforation. At the arch
before the walkway, she heard
the green screech of a peacock,
saw tail fan open, plume on plume.
But it was from the upstairs windows
that she observed in shadow
his whole unknowable menagerie:
the gryphon sprawled in foreign
desire, the clipped vault
of the unicorn rising above,
beyond, their garden wall.