Issue a5 · 2012



In the Garden (june/gnomic unit)


by Monty Reid



And less alone there, a garden is, in short, an open link bent on forming more, ever outward, a line between humans and other species, falling open. . . . 

                                                             —Cole Swenson





1.  June



I made a scarecrow out of an old sweatshirt

with Tyrrell Museum written on it.


And some old Wrangler jeans.

And Kodiak socks.

Some lace-up Sorel workbooks.

A sweat-stained ballcap from the Ottawa Folk Festival.

A pair of ragged canvas gloves from Home Depot.

And Stanfields underwear.


Yes, it’s me, I think

every time I enter the garden.





2.  July



I prefer gnomic to cryptic.


because garden gnomes are supposed to

work happily in the garden at night. 


And we could use some help.


I’d like a gnome molded out of resin, as they are these days

in a miniature form of Mackenzie King.


With a fedora and not the pointy hat

gnomes usually come with.


He could help with the vegetables

unlike the last time around.





3.  August



Gardeners don’t care about your identity

They just care about what you do.


So far, the scarecrow has kept nothing out.





4.  September



The garden gnomes, which I stole from the embassy

are laughing.


The inukshuks, which I stole from the river

are laughing.


The little donkey, which I stole from Kingsmere,

is laughing.


All of the statuary, in all of the gardens

is laughing.







5.  October



Because they have all been stolen


     except for the emperor of gnomes, who remains

     in a Cairo madhouse, according to


they don’t have to worry about their originary selves

and they don’t have to worry about ownership.


They just work here.





6.  November



There is a home-made sundial in the yard

and it’s true, its shadow follows me around all morning


or the light follows me around

and that useless thing just gets in the way.





7.  December



For Christmas Sarah gave me a lightweight gardener’s belt

from Lee Valley I suspect.


It’s made of non-degradeable synthetic fabric with big

polished grommets and green trim.


It has one large pocket for seeds

and three smaller mesh pockets for shears and string


and whatever else a gardener might need to carry

to the place where the codes are scattered.


I tried it on right away.  I strode around the house

like I was planning something.


After I took all my clothes off.

And it fit. 





8.  January



The first day of the new year

Is dull and grey.  Fog hangs on the black branches.


Narratives in tatters.

Narratives in taters, more like it.





9.  February



The gnomes are sleeping underground.

In the luvisol, in saline or calcareous material

mixed by earthworms.


Have they murdered their daughters?

No, no, the daughters are running the show.


Wouldn’t you, after a party like that?





10.  March



The toad lived under a plank beside the garbage can.

He rarely came out, and when he did he hated the gnomes

and their political correctness.


He would pass slowly over the garden

and note, with some jaundice,  the major changes.


He was convinced that whatever starts out in language

ends up as pure bureaucracy, and the gnomes

were just there to give the bureaucracy

a more human face.


The gnomes, he said, have endless paper

but no memory.


Nonetheless, neither the toad or the gnomes

have been able to abandon the garden.





11.  April



Ah, the cruelest month

and it keeps coming back.


It substitutes a series of degraded words

for the formal languages.


Instead of those abstracted gardens

and their strap-on romances.


It has radishes, a lot

of radishes.





12.  May



I waited til May

to try the new gardener’s belt.


In the field, I mean.


Just the belt and some garden boots.


Spring moonlight, and the garden gnomes

nowhere in sight. 


So you’ll just have to take this word for it.













Monty Reid is a Canadian poet living in Ottawa.  His most recent books are The Luskville Reductions (Brick) and Disappointment Island (Chaudiere).  Recent chapbooks include Site Conditions (Apt 9), Sweetheart of Mine (BookThug) and other units of the In the Garden sequence from Laurel ReedBooks, above/ground press and others.  His online work can be found at Dusie, elimae, ottawater, experiment-o and others, and recent print work can be seen in Event, The Malahat Review, Arc and elsewhere.