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In the Garden

for Merry Stoll

wahtola - 02

After I learn that she died,

I go to the garden, grateful

that there are petunias,

cosmos and snapdragons

to plant. Salvia, pansies, and

verbena that will drape its purple

kindness down the sides

of the planter. I don’t

put on my gloves. I let my hands

enter the soil and feel

how good the earth is.

This is how I best remember her,

with a trowel or a scissors in her hand,

ready to transplant, to trim,

to harvest the blooms

into a bouquet for the altar

or table. Flowers hung

in her garage to dry. Flowers

in her bathrooms, her dining room,

her kitchen. It came easy to her,

which stem to place where.

Which color, which ribbon,

which grass, which vase.

She left beauty all over the place.

Once she sat with me

on her green and white couch,

and let me read her poems,

a whole book of them.

We sat there for hours,

and she listened and laughed

at Shel Silverstein’s antics,

and as I read, I felt like a flower,

like something just at the edge

of bloom. Her attention

made me beautiful.

Today, the garden is just starting

to find itself after winter. I cannot help

but weep into the holes I have dug.

It is tender, this moment, and fragile

this life. I feel like making wild pledges—

to honor her legacy—to find

and share beauty everywhere I go.

I feel determined to keep my word.

One Perspective

 

 

carrying a candle outside

into the twilight, the whole world

revolves around the tiny flame

How Things Change

 

 

 

First, she built a tower of blocks.

It fell down. She cried. She built

it again. It fell. You could have told

her then, Honey, it all falls down,

but no, you told her, Rebuild it.

She did. And it fell. Again.

It is hard to not want to rebuild things.

Towers. Marriages. Egos.

Careers. It is hard to stand

in the crumble of life

and not ache for repair.

Until it’s not hard anymore. Until

you feel the freedom

that comes from the mess.

She’ll go off to college,

get a mortgage, a job,

building it all like you told her.

Meanwhile, you’ll get out

your wrecking ball,

the sun hitting you

where that tower

used to stand.

 

 

Thirteen

 

 

 

There are many kinds of love, and I have lived some of them.

—Katherine Gallagher, Distances

 

 

You’re too restrictive,

he shouts at you,

and the fist of his voice

connects with your most tender parts.

There was a time

when loving him looked

like holding him, letting

the small question of his body

soften into yours. There

was a time when loving him

looked like kissing a knee

or playing Monopoly

a third time or singing

to him in the dark. How

easy it was to love then.

Now, love is a war

with no winners,

ammo without a gun,

a wall you wish you could

tear down. That’s right,

you say. I’m restrictive.

That’s my job.

He stomps away

and slams his bedroom door,

leaving you standing

alone with your horrible,

fierce love.

 

 

 

I know that things just don’t grow if you don’t bless them with your patience.

            —First Aid Kit, Emmylou

 

 

There are gardens in me

where I have tried

to make things bloom

out of season—

how difficult it can be

to let a seed do

what a seed does

all on its own,

especially in a time

of drought when I fear

the seed may not grow at all

if I don’t help it

grow more quickly.

And so I let soil

be my teacher.

How perfectly

it waits, letting

the world feed it.

How easily it

partners with rain,

with sun, with time.

One Eventually

 

 

 

arriving in the dark

at my own doorstep

learning at last

to leave the light on

for myself

Moon River and Me

 

 

            for Merry

 

 

Though she could barely carry

a conversation, she could still sing,

so I would sit by her nursing home bed

and sing Moon River and her eyes

might not even open, but

her lips would start to move,

wider than a mile, I’m crossing

you in style someday.

Her voice was wobbly, perhaps,

but her notes were true,

and she’d smile as she sang.

Old dream maker, you

heart breaker, wherever you’re goin’,

I’m goin’ your way.

She’d been nowhere but

this bed for years,

but I could see behind her eyes

she was aiming toward some

imperceptible future,

a drifter, off to see the world

beyond this one.

And I would hold her hand

and she would squeeze it.

If she could hear the tears

in my voice, she didn’t say so.

We’d sung together since I was a girl,

show tunes in her kitchen

and hymns from the choir loft in the church.

Her soprano, a beacon of my childhood.

Now, in a room far from her,

I light a candle as she drifts away,

and sing as if she could hear me,

there’s such a lot of world to see,

my voice cloudy, as if any moment

it might start to rain and that

rainbow’s end might appear,

and for a moment, we could

look at it together before

she goes around the bend, alone.

 

 

 

 

after the curtain call

the mind still rehearsing

how to shine

One More Layer

 

 

 

after shedding all these skins

still saying to the cherry blossom

teach me how to let go

 

 

singing beside the falls

the sound of the water

drowns out our voices

but that isn’t any reason

to stop singing

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