Thyme Flowering Among Rocks

      by Richard Wilbur

This, if Japanese,
Would represent grey boulders
Walloped by rough seas

So that, here or there,
The balked water tossed its froth
Straight into the air.

Here, where things are what
They are, it is thyme blooming,
Rocks, and nothing but—

Having, nonetheless,
Many small leaves implicit,
A green countlessness.

Crouching down, peering
Into perplexed recesses,
You find a clearing

Occupied by sun
Where, along prone, rachitic
Branches, one by one,

Pale stems arise, squared
In the manner of Mentha,
The oblong leaves paired.

One branch, in ending,
Lifts a little and begets
A straight-ascending

Spike, whorled with fine blue
Or purple trumpets, banked in
The leaf axils. You

Are lost now in dense
Fact, fact which one might have thought
Hidden from the sense,

Blinking at the detail
Peppery as this fragrance,
Lost to proper scale

As, in the motion
Of striped fins, a bathysphere
Forgets the ocean.

It makes the craned head
Spin. Unfathomed thyme! The world’s
A dream, Bashō said,

Not because that dream’s
A falsehood, but because it’s
Truer than it seems.


From Collected Poems: 1943–2004, Orlando, Florida: Harcourt Books, 2004, page 219. Wilbur employs a 5-7-5 syllabic pattern (this does not make them haiku) in at least three additional poems: “Alatus,” “Signatures,” and “Zea.”