In the Garden

in memory of the poet Tom Dent

New Orleans
has too much water
most of the time.
It snakes around us, boils
and thrashes the willows,
breaches the levee,

pours in April, muddies dancers, seeks
cracks in slates, broken shingles, runs
down walls,
through gutters overflowing
seeks its level, in May
drowns us in underpasses.

It rains and rains and rains.
It’s pouring.
But shh—shh.
It’s quit.

In June we thirst,
hot pink crepe myrtles bloom,
marigolds burn up,
the garden needs watering.

How precious. How rare
Tom’s words now
burning like tears down our
dry faces,

just a few words on a dry street.
Oh, gentle, gentle rain, his
slow cadences collected in slow drains
force us to think.

The source is not the mouth,
the source is the source,
part of the big river.

Lee Meitzen Grue
from the book Three Poets in New Orleans
Xavier Review Press, 2000

Used with permission of the poet


For a Science Class

Lesson Plan for Lee Meitzen Grue’s “In the Garden”
by Laurie A. Williams

Have students read the poem in class. As they are reading have them look for words and phrases that can be associated with science.

Make a list of those terms and words on the board.

Ask students to decide what can be verified with scientific evidence and what is more speculative.

Then come up with ways to verify the scientific evidence and ways to go about proving or disproving the speculative elements.

Have students explore average rainfalls and the hydrologic cycle in Louisiana.

How does the temperature affect the hydrologic cycle?

Have students explore weather patterns and their influences in Louisiana.

As a writing exercise, have students write a poem about the hydrologic cycle or the weather cycles in Louisiana.

For an English Classroom

Lesson Plan for Lee Meitzen Grue’s “In the Garden”
by Laurie A. Williams

Before reading the poem, have students number the lines on the left hand side of the line.

Have students look at how the poem appears on the page and discuss what they see.

Then have students read the poem line by line. You can go down the rows or pull cards with student names.

Have students listen to where the line breaks occur.

Have students note which lines end with punctuation and which lines do not.

Discuss end-stopped lines (lines with ending punctuation) and enjambed lines (lines that break with no punctuation)

Have students find where each sentence ends per end punctuation.

How many sentences does this poem have?

How many strophes?

Have students make a list of images in the poem.

Have students go through the poem from beginning and state what occurs in the poem, beginning with the title of the poem. They can either write the explication or discuss it in class.

Go over the elements of elegy and discuss if this poem is an elegy.

Students can research Tom Dent individually or in pairs or groups. Tom Covington Dent (1932-1998)

Have students write an elegy.

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