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Digging Up Potatoes

There is no way to know

what we’ll find beneath

the yellowing leaves.

And always I forget

which varieties I’ve planted

and where. And so, when

the Finnish fingerlings appear

just below the surface,

I thrill in their golden

skin and knobby shapes,

and when the dark purple

potatoes emerge from the depths

of the garden bed,

by then, I am already kneeling,

but something inside kneels, too—

oh the russet and red-skinned

and pink-fleshed miracle of it all,

the sheer delight

of running my fingers

through the dirt and

pulling out potatoes,

each one somehow

a surprise, a small reminder

of how beautifully

the world can work,

how the darkness

nourishes such incredible

gifts. Ten hours since

I left the garden, and

whatever inside me knew to kneel

is still enthralled in prayer.

Some mornings, for no reason,

the world is newer. The color

of the grass, the scent of last night’s rain,

the feel of the lover’s skin.

Everything feels charged

and abuzz with itself.

You might say, and

I would not argue,

that the world and everything in it

is another day older.

Yes, of course, and there

is also this: the taste of this peach—

I have tasted peaches before—

but this one is so very peach,

so remarkably peach,

like something I have known

only very, very new.

the deer beside the highway

struggling to stand on broken legs

has been dead four days

and still I try to think of ways

I might save it

How It Goes On

On the day I learned that he died,

I made blackberry jam. The kitchen

was steamy and hot from the water bath,

and the bubbling saucepan of fruit took nearly

an hour to gel. I stood and stirred

and stirred and stood. The sweet scent

touched everything. It was gray

outside and smelled of rain, while in

the pot deepened a most beautiful darkness,

the color of sugar that comes with time.

It was an accident, of course, the kind

that makes every one of us think

we are lucky to be alive, lucky to stand

wherever we are standing, whether

it’s in line for a bus or beside the road

or in front of a chalkboard or

in the middle of the kitchen stirring

blackberry jam. How could I not fall in love

with the heat, with the color of blackberries,

how could I not fall in love with the cat

and the chatter of the girl playing dolls

and the racket of the boys throwing pillows

and even the ache in my feet. What a blessing

to be alive, to feel this awful tug

in my gut, this surge of what if,

this swell of what was, this terrible gift

of standing for hours to preserve what is sweet

as if I believe there will be a day months from now

when we will eat the sweetness and

know ourselves lucky to be alive.

Burning the Candle

Never enough arms

to juggle the minutes.

Always something to fill,

and something to fix,

something to carry,

something amiss—

one eye on the clock,

one eye on the winds.

I’m a tangle, a jumble,

a snarl of to-do,

but I always keep

two arms free

to reach

toward you.

Picking Blackberries

with gratitude to Christie and Dave for their generous hearts and abundant backyard

The thickets are always thicker than I think,

climbing the branches of nearby trees and snaking

through the grass. And red berries are always greener

than I wish, full of pucker and startling bite.

But the blackest of berries, the duller ones, bulbous,

and days past their shine, they are sweeter than I dream.

Sometimes I imagine the way a thing will be—

invent it as something grander than itself.

But the blackberry, ripened in its woodland bramble,

stains the fingers and sings on the tongue

with all the sweetness late summer can gather

and spends all its pleasure at once. Sometimes

there is no better fantasy than the thing itself—

the thorns an integral part of the story. Sometimes

I wish that the stain would never leave.

Accidental Libretto

Oh hear that, love,

the night sky has become

an opera of blossoms.

The stars are opening

into song for anyone

who will listen.

As always, someone’s

heart is breaking,

someone’s getting even.

And someone’s love

is gaining wings.

And someone’s trapped

in prison. And all of us

are invited to be

singers in the chorus.

Or perhaps

to be the silence.

Or perhaps to write

the score. Oh darn

the world of daytime things

that keeps us from this art.

Let’s pretend that we don’t know

the end. Now’s the time

the start.

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