Two Poems

The Boxwood Hedge

Two hundred years ago

A schooner with a cargo

Of Polish swans

And English boxwood bushes

Was bound for New York Harbor

When it was shipwrecked in a storm

Just off Long Island


Because the cabin-boy

Opened their cages

The forty swans took flight

Into the marshes

The sapling boxwood bushes

Were swept ashore

And up into the beach-grass

On the dunes

Where children found them


Now three heads taller

Than the tallest man


And rich in shadows

The boxwood bushes

Are growing as a hedge around

A country doctor’s garden


Their little waxen leaves

Are of a green so deep

It’s almost black

And when the sun is on them


They haunt the doctor’s house

With a dim double perfume

Like that of fresh-ground coffee

And the musk

Of a wild mushroom.




A Seaside Autumn

Children are back on the playground

At Our Lady of Ostrabrama

Filling the air with a babble

Like that of a hundred birds


Asters and goldenrod appear

All over town

Wherever earth is idle

No on gets off the morning train

Arriving from the city

Keepers of little shops prepare

To move to Florida

And there are storms of music in the sky

As the wild geese fly over


Out in the swamp the maples blaze

With a seraphic fire

While huge and grey as elephants

The older maples of the street

Secretly leaf by leaf

Change their green crowns to gold

And let them fall


Down at the shore

Beaches are empty, summer crowds have gone

The azure glittering of the sea

Is there alone.

—Anne Porter

About the Author

Anne Porter (1911–2011) was a longtime contributor to Commonweal, and the author of Living Things: Collected Poems (2006) and An Altogether Different Language (1994), which was nominated for a National Book Award. She died on October 10, shortly before her hundredth birthday.Requiescat in pace.

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