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.”