Ongoing war, the spring campaign
to save the seedlings – more cotyledons
felled atop the soft, damp ridge
of well-worked soil under last night’s moon,
new cucumbers grown pale and limp –
heavy little hands curl helplessly
in gray light. With war chants, you shake
the last of the bird-friendly, thirty-dollar jug
of Sluggo into the yellow Iris spears,
abbreviated epithets slung with another
shell upon the ground    sure underfoot.
Combing rake-like, your fingers drag
through broad green leaves, looking
for the enemy and pink casualties to save –
strawberries hollowed before ripe. Even
the volunteer Sunflowers have been attacked.

The garden,
                our ticket to postponing town,
exhales, exasperates new law –
                I imagine the machete
                clinched between my rounded crowns,
air thick as battle smoke,
as every living thing knows, even
the oriole, brightly singing for a mate
to help weave and sling a sock nest
in the Palo Verde near the cherry tree,
can feel the uneasy certainty of a new régime.

We sharecrop our cultivated world
of few straight rows, snow peas reaching
beyond support to bloom and drip
from a round and rusty water trough,
potatoes in another, as asparagus dares to bolt.
Drawn from leafy cover to pie pans of beer,
we entertain the snails, and ourselves
with red wine glee, lopsided shells too heavy
to slime a straight line to dark safety.

3 responses to “GARDEN JOURNAL, APRIL 2011

  1. What a lovely poem for a gardener like myself to wake up to.
    Beautiful, John!!!
    I only think of Palo Verdes where I grew up in Arizona……
    Because I am about to move here I haven’t planted my tomatoes and Sunflowers……..and the landlady took out my sweet peas when she cleared the garden so it looks like the Mojave desert now. I had planted them last fall and they would be adorning my table right now. Very sad. Can’t wait to be in my new home with my roses in the ground again!!


  2. Good luck with the gardening and postponing trips to town. It sounds like you are well on your way. We have weeks to go before we are safe to plant anything here in northeastern Nevada. Snow this morning, again. Thanks for the great posts and photos.


  3. This made me smile.

    I’ve just reconnected with the old folksong “The Housewife’s Lament” and its great line: “I spend my whole life in a battle with dirt.” I think you’ve written the gardener’s lament: “I spend my whole life in a battle with snails” — but at least this post makes me want to get my hands in dirt instead of sweeping it under the rug!


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