Posts Tagged ‘garden’

            for Vivian
She with the shovel,
I with the rake,
we move across
the garden row
clearing and weeding
and tilling the soil—
how hard it is,
how heavy, and
how simple,
this essential work—
preparing for beauty

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A whole garden of begonias
blesses me this day,
this double-edged day
in which I find myself
in a long and generous park
with my husband and daughter,
and I also find myself
in a small room one year ago
when I last heard your voice,
when I last felt you squeeze my hand.
How strange and honest it is,
this living in two days at once.
Why was I drawn to walk
to this unfamiliar place
where thousands of white
and red begonias bloom,
undeterred by longer nights,
by shade?
You loved this flower.
For you, every flower,
no matter its real name,
was begonia.
I meet the coincidence
as if it’s a generous sign
you still guide me
in ways I do not understand.
Each begonia petal is a key
to pick the locks of my rational mind.
Today, the doors of love
are visible everywhere.
I open them every time
and all the world’s begonia.

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is what you say when pressing
the garlic cloves into the soil in early November:
five inches down, sprout side up.
But no matter how well one plants them—
preferably six inches apart so they don’t compete
for sunlight or water or space—
it will still be a long time
before green shoots come up.

It’s the same thing I say to myself
as I sit by my husband and weep,
as I’ve done nearly every day
for over a year since our son died.
No matter how well one grieves—
whether the heart is cracked asphalt
or a lush peony—
it’s going to take a long time.

A long time, perhaps forever.
I tell myself, Go ahead,
cry when you think of how he used to race
to the car when you’d come home.
As if I could stop myself.
I cry because my body says cry.
Because I remember the shape
of his body crushed into mine.

Because sometimes my heart
is more dead bird than wing.
Because some things we simply live into.
Winter will come and freeze the dirt.
Next spring, there will be green shoots.
Late summer, we will pull thick bulbs from the earth.
We will welcome the taste, sharp and strong.

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The Growing

Vivian, the garden is ready now for winter.
Today was the day to pull everything out—
the remaining carrots, a few beets, the dried stalks
of sunflowers with their seed heads already emptied
into the soil. Next year there will be many volunteers.

I was surprised how many plants still had life.
The calendula, for instance, had dozens of new green leaves
flourishing around their bases, despite the frost and snow.
The snapdragons, too, had several inches of new growth,
though winter is near, though their flowers are dead.

What an astonishment, how life insists on itself.
Today I read an essay that said, The purpose of life is life.
Something thrilled in me when I read it,
though how to reconcile these words with the choice
your brother made to give up this life?

There are moments when I watch you find pleasure
in some simple act—stapling fabric to a box to make a costume.
Drawing on your hand. Snuggling the cat.
Life seems to burgeon around all the places inside you
that died when your brother died.

It’s a choice you make, I know.
The garden will be full of surprises next year.
I marvel at what grows.

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When, in ancient Persia, the farmers
began to selectively breed wild carrots
to make them sweeter and minimize the woody core,
they could not have imagined how,
over two thousand years later,
a woman on another continent
would harvest hundreds and hundreds of carrots
on a late October day and,
as she pulled the long orange roots
from the near-frozen earth,
she would thank those farmers for their work.
Such a miracle of sweetness, the carrot—
so brittle, so high in sugar,
such a shocking brilliant orange.
And yet not a miracle.
The story of the carrot is like so many stories—
it is a testament to many hands over centuries
shaped it into what it is today.
I look at these hands of mine as they tug the rosettes,
as they scrape the loose dirt, as they trim.
What will they sow? What will they select?
What legacy of change will they leave?  

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One in October

knowing frost comes soon,
every flower in the garden
suddenly more precious

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  for Shawnee
This morning, knowing you were coming,
I went to the garden and cut the largest sunflower
to put in a vase on the table.
It was the loveliest of all the garden’s flowers,
planted from seed four months ago.
When I was younger than you are now,
my grandmother gave me voluptuous roses
in a simple blue glass vase.
I felt so connected to her this morning
as I made a bouquet for you.
I understood something new of devotion.          
Unable to thank her, I thanked
the sunflower. Her love from three decades ago
pulsed through the stem like sunshine.
How did I not feel the full magnitude then?
I give all that love to you.

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Life Lesson

Though the old snap peas dangle
dried and yellow on the dying vine,
and the lettuce, once tender,
has bolted and toughened,
and the kale, now blue,
is aphid-ridden,

the calendula, cosmos,
nasturtiums and marigolds
are in full-bloom and generous.
I fill the house with vases,
each bouquet a celebration
of great change.
It thrills me. Oh, summer,
you die so beautifully.

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In the Garden, Again

After breaking, after kneeling,
after raising my ripe fist, after
opening my palm, after
clenching it again, after running,
after hiding, after taking off
my masks, after stilling,
after shouting, after bargaining
with God, after crumpling
and cursing, after losing,
after song, after seeking,
after breath, after breath,
after breath,
I stand in the sunflowers
of early September
and watch as the bees weave
from one giant bloom to another,
and I, too, am sunflower,
tall-stemmed and face lifted,
shaped by the love of light
and the need for rain.
I stand here until some part of me
is again more woman than sunflower,
and she notices how,
for a few moments,
it was enough just to be alive.
Just to be alive, it was enough.


This poem was published in ONE ART: A Journal of Poetry on 9/11/22

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So Alive

After a late summer rain,
when the low sun shines
through the still-dripping world,
I walk in the garden and slip my hands
into the lettuce rows,
easily pulling up small green heads,
the leaves not yet bitter and tough.
Oh, the beauty of things in their prime.
Soon enough, the snow will be here,
the garden a drift of white.
No way to preserve this green for winter,
so I take it into me, dirt and all,
stuffing the leaves into my mouth.
I take in the green and the diamonding dew,
take in the golden light,
take in the sound of the river
and the growing shadows.
There are moments I understand
what blessing is. In this moment,
it looks exactly like what is.

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