A Poem for June: In a Garden

June 2022

Alexander McCall Smith joined the Cyrenians charity last week, along with patients and volunteers, at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for a book reading, where he presented a new poem written for the occasion and gifted books to hospital patients and staff. Here is that poem.


In a Garden
  The Community Gardens
  The human soul has its moods
That gardeners instinctively understand:
The formal order of Versailles,
The geometric paths of the Hanover Bergarten,
Where well-behaved plants, marshalled
In rows, modest and undemonstrative,
Will appeal to those who yearn
For more order in life, generally,
Who would arrange ebullient nature
In such a way as to inspire
A feeling that spontaneous chaos
Is not the natural state of things,
And does not necessarily have to be;
By the same token, the suburban plot
Allowed by neglect to become rank,
A haven for plants uncomfortable
Under excessive scrutiny
Is happy, as it is, in disorder,
And well received by those who rather like
Weeds and dandelions and dockens,
Growth that has established itself
Uninvited, where seeds happened to fall
And then lived a natural life, unchecked,
Until winter wipes the slate clean.
A vegetable garden is something different,
Its role is not to entertain the eye
With shape and form; a harvest
Is what the cultivator of such a garden
Has in mind; kale, tatties, onions, garlic,
A few of the more popular herbs,
These are things that such gardens
Bring to our appreciative table;
And yet, such a garden, may allow,
Indeed may encourage flowers,
May still be a place where the view
Is as important as the eventual crop;
This garden, for instance,
Is such a place; and it is something more:
This is a place of healing,
This is a place where nature reminds us
That we can, and should, still help one another
To overcome the difficulties that everyone
Faces in one way or another;
This is a garden where one
Of the most important plants is love itself,
Cultivated quietly, watered in dry spells,
Tended in a world where, unfortunately,
There is never quite enough of it;
There may be plenty of potatoes,
There may be quite enough spinach,
Runner beans may prove plentiful,
But there can never be too much love,
That plant whose botanical property
It is to make whole, to heal the soul.

Alexander McCall Smith, May 2022

To find out more about Cyrenians gardens and other projects preventing homelessness visit https://cyrenians.scot/donate