deepdene blog karl marxKarl Marx Imperial Dispensary and Himalayan Tea Garden: Poems, cover art and book design by Sylvia Fischbach Braden: http://karlmarximperial.blogspot.com/


Please join SYLVIA FISCHBACH BRADEN at the University of Baltimore (UB) Student Center, 21 W. Mt. Royal Ave., for a reading from Karl Marx Imperial Dispensary and Himalayan Tea Garden on Saturday, May 7, 3:30- 4:15 p.m.

The Himalayan Tea Garden is a collection of discursive poems that consider exile, loss, love, art, colonialism, relics, dead birds, imaginary birds, a lost mural, missionary grandparents, a mysterious Hebrew word, and a bright orange ball of Singapore-made Super Dough.

Sylvia’s reading will be part of the UB Creative Writing and Publishing Arts MFA Graduate Reading, Book Sale and Festival to take place 12-5 p.m. in the Wright Theatre, fifth floor of the Student Center.

UB will award Sylvia her MFA this month. Sylvia is a graduate of Bennington College and the Maryland Institute College of Art; she has also studied with Baltimore writers Margaret Osburn and Mary Azrael. Her poems have been published in Passager; Welter, Skelter; and The Light Ekphrastic.

When Sylvia first learned that UB had a graduate writing program that included hands-on book design and bookmaking for print as well as for electronic publishing, she says, “It sounded perfect for me. I love that the culminating project, and thesis, is a printed book.”

Benefits of the MFA program, she says, have been “community—interaction with a group of diverse, passionate, risk-taking young writers , and some not-so-young; a sounding-board for my own voice; and intimate, hard-earned knowledge of the complete process of creating a book, from blank page or computer screen to designing an author’s website and sales platform, still working on that one…

“I’ve always been a words and pictures person. Before I got my BFA at MICA, I had worked as a graphic designer. Inspired by the recent resurgence of interest in traditional book arts, letterpress printing, and papermaking, I was already making artists’ books in my studio when–at age 64–I entered graduate school.”

With Sylvia’s permission we’ve reprinted the following poems from the Himalayan Tea Garden: “Seedpods Explode in Eden” and “New and Improved.”          


Seedpods Explode in Eden


In the Himalayan mountains, its home,

Impatiens glandulifera grows

in tall spreading stands

swaying like a robed choir by a riverbend,

fierce as a Gurkha regiment.


A common man’s orchid: lavender-pink petals

shot with purple veins

rise from a ruffled bisexual bowl.

Its glassy green seedpods explode

spontaneously or, if pinched,

shoot arsenals of seed-arrows.

It rises on thick, wine-red, water-filled stems,

hexagonal in section,

like hardware store hex-nuts.


Touch-me-not, kiss-me-on-the-mountain,

Himalayan balsam, jewelweed:

women of the hills use the crushed

petals to paint their nails,

soothe snakebite.


Victorian plant-hunters

brought specimens to England

where its rambunctious habit

and super-sweet nectar

(favored by bees)

rendered it a threat.

Here, too, it’s disdained,

considered an undesirable,

alien, invasive weed.


At every supermarket

or hardware store in spring,

you’ll see its shorter, showier,

commercially successful cousin,

Busy Lizzie,

tamed and sold in flats

for summer blooms

in shade.


I like to imagine

Impatiens glandulifera

blooming prodigiously

in the foothills

behind Eden Hospital,

the now-crumbling edifice

in Darjeeling

where my mother was born.


A sepia photograph from 1911

shows her sitting

on Grandma Nelle’s

white-gowned missionary knee.

She turns her baby head away

from the fat, slow, hooded camera

with its accordion bellows,

defying definition.


New and Improved


Amazing invention cleans your boots,

shaves chocolate, makes it curl,

brightens the tusks of carved elephants

in your grandmother’s trunk from India,

evicts expired cans and boxes

from the shanty-towns of the backs

of your kitchen cupboards,

invisibly mends the holes the hated carpet beetles

made in your handknit woolens.


Unbearable bare spots dotting your lawn?

Seeking adventure?


Step out in this red straw hat

by Mademoiselle Marie—

heads turn, hearts wheel, barns dance,

crayons toss their paper wrappers to the sky,

the moon spits out a ladder

and corn waves. Guaranteed.


But if that’s not enough,

try on this peacock-feather pillbox hat.

Ah, then India

and Indiana shake hands,

mountains lean to talk to you, rivers reverse,

ice cream blooms, rabbits curtsy,

circles embrace squares, light bulbs fraternize

with radiators, radiators

speak in tongues,

your mother sits beside you on the sofa,

not sad—

spilt milk’s self-cleaning,

no one shivers, no one’s broken, no one’s lost.


syl photo deepdene smile

Readers can order Karl Marx Imperial Dispensary and Himalayan Tea Garden, by Sylvia Fischbach Braden, Silver Oaks Press, 2016, with Paypal or credit card at http://karlmarximperial.blogspot.com/.   

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5 thoughts on “KARL MARX IMPERIAL DISPENSARY and HIMALAYAN TEA GARDEN by Sylvia Fischbach Braden

  1. Thanks, Liz. Before I read, I’m going to do a little word-by-word break-down of my long, exotic title!


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