After first seeing the poem, a reader might think it’s a sweet and innocent poem about a quaint and small private garden in someone’s backyard. The rhyme scheme is more or less clear-cut, featuring an ABAB CDCD structure. The A rhyme leans slightly more toward off rhyme, but that’s about as daring as this element seems to get. The title “גן” is short and simple – just one syllable, two letters. It doesn’t imply any certain unusual state of the garden, or anything being done to the garden. Instead, a reader might expect to just hear about any typical garden, perhaps one that is idealized or belongs in a fairytale. Like the title, the poem’s length is short, which also leads a reader to expectations of simplicity and even innocence as well.
From the very first line, the punctuation signals the poem’s complexity. The initial line, “שרף-דבדבן – הוא מתוק ושקוף” would flow smoothly into the second line, “לקלף מן הגזע, לקחת” without a period separating them. In that case, the second line would modify the first line. With that punctuated finality to the first line, however, the subject of the second line becomes ambiguous, and it becomes unclear what is being stripped from the trunk, what is being taken.
Throughout the poem, the author provides absolutely no information about the speaker. So too, that mysterious narrator describes certain qualities of natural landscapes, but doesn’t locate those in any specific place. Moreover, the scope of what is described reaches far beyond what a reader would expect from a poem called “גן.” Instead of the quiet, well-contained private garden in someone’s backyard, this poem presents vast imagery that goes beyond the normal scope of a garden and suggests an almost chaotic quality to the landscape.
In the third line we read about “הרום” – the heights – which already remove the poem from the imagined backyard and instead use a broader, and perhaps more dangerous, backdrop. The last line of the first stanza describes the blooming as “סופה לבנה של תפרחת” – a storm! This description dispels the reader’s notion of a tranquil, quiet garden, and instead replaces it with a phonetically swirling sequence of rhymes (סופה – לבנה – תפרחת) to add intensity to the storm metaphor. The next line – “לעלות על גבעה ולצעוק: “אחים” – furthers the issue of scope. Not only are there hills included in this landscape, there are also people congregating. Next, “!הביטו בצחור הצמרת” … treetops? At this point it seems relatively clear that what is being described is simply not a garden at all. But what is it?
Finally, the last line confuses the poem yet one step further. “הם הולכים אל ילדות אחרת” is unclear both because the reader is unsure as to the subject of this line and about what it means to depart toward another childhood. The subject could be the אביבים mentioned in the previous line, but given that line is part of an exclamation out loud and the last line reverts to the narrator’s voice, it certainly could be something else. As for the ילדות אחרת, it seems to be some sort of alternate reality. The entire poem functions under different assumptions than the one the reader makes initially; perhaps the poem itself is representative of that alternate reality.