My Mother's Garden
her garden paths—
smell of lavender
sound of easy laughter
riding on sunlit air.
It is as if she
is running just ahead—
as if her skirt
has just flicked
out of sight around the corner.
The Environmentalists Burn the Prairie
like Aeneas, fleeing their set fire,
as if from Dido
and chaos, passionate
and fertile as the void was fertile
enough in Genesis to spawn life
down to the last
when the burning grass falls around me
as the hot winds surge and fail.
Wrapped in a tangle
of pea-vines and walled in
by man-high grass, I welcome
the roar and the smoke and the flame
too much, I fear.
behind the fireline
and walk on steaming cinders
where a world had been.
Because of the flames, they tell me,
in spring the gayfeather will shoot up
and a thousand tiny orchids will hide
among the roots of renewed grasses.
to plant my Roman garden in the spring
in measured, lawful rows.
In classic tradition, I limit creation
to that scrap
Chiggers. Poison ivy.
Thank God, worms.
Tulips & daffodils.
Pray for mountain rue.
Sticky weed. Burrs.
Thornystem weed (horse nettle?)
Vinca smothered by euonymus along the sidewalk —
Root out the euonymus! Turn it into lawn! Yes!
Vinca carpet along the creek
slowly taking over all empty space.
Lamium almost smothered by vinca along the creek:
only two left.
Coreopsis = moon flower holding off vinca encroachment.
Daffodils in shade.
Hosta in sun.
Oops, backwards. Do-over.
Bunches & bunches & bunches of lilacs.
Rose of Sharon — my childhood home.
Phlox — alternate purple and pink.
Two rose bushes, a gift.
(Now we have to feed them.)
For Sythia, always for Sythia.
What about Alice? Mary? Don’t they deserve something?
Moneywort in two shades intertwined.
Sedum (2 kinds) & maiden pink & chrysanthemummummums.
White pine. Silver birch. Pin oak. Maple. Chinese elm.
Juniper bushes in front, 4 box hedges in back.
Lots of pine trees, 2 of them spindly & not going to last long.
Weed trees along the creek & the east side of the property.
Snow-in-summer (say it fast 10 times).
“If grass won’t grow there
nothing else will.”
But the peonies oh the peonies
the peonies always do all right.
We pick pans and pans of cucumbers,
their spines pricking the skin
on the insides of our arms,
drops of sweet water budding
at the point where fruit left vine.
Bees as eager as we
to harvest from the blooms
buzz in and around the shaded leaves,
the shadow of my hand
crossing their paths.
We pull plastic sheeting off
the old window unit and coax it
to blow its musty, dusty air.
We wash and slice, vinegar and salt,
add mustard, orange-gold turmeric, dill,
pull clean, blue-green Ball jars
from the oven, and pickle
in the weight of the heated kitchen.
Bronze lids pop and seal
in long rows across the counter.
We water the plants, winding
the long hose out from the leaky
faucet behind the garage,
past the onions and strawberries,
through cabbages and past
the row of clustered peppers,
next to the budding okra, planted late.
The earth opens up and drinks
our water, and I drink from the hose,
fresh summer water that tastes like metal
and rubber, sweet dirt and sweat.
We come inside when the sun
has its late setting and june bugs
fly blind into window screens.
We wash our feet in the bathtub,
watch the dirt and dust break loose
and flow down the drain,
dry our feet on towels
dried rough on the clothesline,
wipe our sunburned necks of sweat.
Some nights, the washing is too much;
in the heat, the long day, we go to sleep
and take the dirt to bed with us.
Vacant Lot - Colony, KS
Hollyhocks grew here,
fibrous and pungent.
Jonquils, pushy as teenagers,
rushed up through the snow.
Here! The yellow rosebush.
Grandma called it “Nebuchadnezzar.”
Here was the garden,
where her gold wedding band
slipped from her slender finger
and was planted among peas or radishes.
Here, I secretly watched, each spring,
for the first green shoots
of a Wedding Band Bush.
at the yellow rosebush,
I say our magic words:
“Your old slippers, my old shoes,
Nebuchadnezzar, the King of the Jews.”