Arcadia Lost


The fading garden stares, shadows

the dusty dry where ducklings played 

the vacancies where palms once filled the sky

The still nests empty of children, hope.


The clouding sky stares, reflects

The turgid pool, deserted deck,

bikinied youth lost to years.

Shivers suppress anticipation

flaccid as the idle vacuum hose 

floating sidled in the murk.


Mourning, I stare, comprehending 

dowager-ed graces masking truth;

The figs rot, too many for the few.

The kitchen microwaved, decayed

The plastic breakfast chairs, hollow as the faith

Straining beneath the weight of human dignity.

Ants, invading through a poisoned sewage breach 

Die by the score, still come, still come, still come. . .


The fat goldfish stares, 

breaks the surface, ignores his dying cousin

Eyes a passing fly, caves his dark round mouth, waits 

Erases all on the count of three.


About this: For 16 years, home in South Africa has been at Birdwood, a bed and breakfast in a once quiet, gracious, century old neighbourhood, where guests are put up in cottages in a lovely garden behind the family's historic Victorian home.When I first visited, I was enchanted as much by the grace, the friendliness, the easy hospitality, as by the pleasant physical surroundings--the ducks in the little pond, the fountains tucked into the landscaping, the towering palms. For all these years, Birdwood's host, Santie, her partner, her children and theirs, have become something of an adopted family to me, and have provided a sense of belonging while I was engaged in a foreign culture. 

On the surface, Birdwood is the same, and the welcome is as warm as ever. But look closely, and the signs of time's passage are indelible, etched in the gardens that give it is name.

 © Philip Knight 2018