Garden of Romance

Paula S. Osborn, Johns Island, S.C.

When I have been too long surrounded by the noise and turmoil

Of this modern world with its dissonant hum of machines,

Then I retreat to tranquil places for solace and repose.

I find the bench by the river's edge where another once composed

The sermons that brought comfort to a community's leaders

Who knew of battles forebears fought to achieve independence

In the inexorable pursuit of freedom and that more perfect union

Envisioned in the nation's early years, our collective dream.

The river speaks in a solemn cadence with tides that ebb and flow,

Reminding one that change is not linear even as it evolves.

Above the water, the birds perform their elegant aerial maneuvers.

The osprey soars high against the clouds while herons glide to landings.

Like a whispering chorus, the marsh grasses chant their evensong.

All along the bank, the live oaks stand as sentinels, witnesses still,

Trees whose existence and solidity respond to a timeless call, "Endure.

They were here when the Cusabo fished along the Ashley's shores,

When patriots and royalists clashed over a continent's future,

When countless Africans toiled on Southern soil, enslaved but undefeated,

When shades of blue and gray lingered in the twilight, restless and weary.

So many have heard the rhythms of the tides and the message of the trees.

Now this land sustains forests, open greens, and sheltered places to reflect

On what is past, what is yet to come, what has vanished, and what survives.

The rice fields no longer dominate, though canals and levee relics remain.

A bridge engages the imagination, joining earth and sky in its watery glass.

Most joyously, a canvas of color still rises, a priceless gift for a bride,

A roll call of azaleas, camellias, magnolias, dogwood and rose,

Whose blooms return each year despite the weather or the world’s extremes,

Arcing skyward, petals unfurled, their offering, their offering.