Mudlark No. 41 (2010)

Mendel the Monk

See him there in the garden
in his belted black soutane,
genial, obese,
mumbling and humming to the cabbages,
to the blackbirds, the early iris,
the rolling hills, the clouds.
The town walled out,
and other news of civilization.
See him there in the cloister
among scholarly Augustinians
at services, at table, at their standing desks.
A farm boy of uncertain health,
given to seizures of despondency,
more inclined to physics than husbandry,
his genius saved by happenstance,
by Gymnasium and a mentoring abbot.
See him there in the greenhouse,
obstetrician to the peas,
seeding, nurturing, harvesting,
lover of numbers tediously puttering
at the intimation of an idea,
sorting, labeling, logging the generations.
Their tendrils sweetly yearning,
twining about his sticks and strings.
See him there in the orangery,
taking his ease among tropical scents,
a nice writing table and chairs for visitors,
discreet paintings and a stove for the winter.
Unmindful of any blasphemy against Genesis,
untroubled by Darwinian currents over Europe,
by Freudian stirrings in Vienna
nor implications of prurience in his ardors.
Savoring his cigar
and chess with his nephews.
See him there in the greenhouse
gently lifting the leaves away
from the hidden flower,
peeling open the inner layer
to reveal its male portion,
deftly with his tweezers
snipping off its powdery pollen.
Then from the uncastrated flower
of a plant of another strain
collecting on a delicate brush
wisps of its yellow-orange pollen
which he dusts on the female portion
of the emasculated flower,
covering it with a tiny calico cap
to protect it from wanton pollen on any breeze.

Oliver Rice | Mudlark No. 41 (2010)
Contents | Notes from Underground