Young Tomatoes

The sun had not crested the wall
I was sure you were sleeping
when I lifted the covers and
stepped out into the yard

In a world both quiet and warring
the air can feel tight, no? But
then I see what I’ve created
together with our Mother

I speak to them; we touch. With the
scent of tomatoes on my hands
how can I not feel at home
despite what today brings

(March 31, 2020)

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What I Read

A woman went to the North
to live between the mountains
away from the world, and it
was there that she wrote about
the mainstream news stories
you and I read on a regular
basis. Her premise discussed
how inconsequential it is for
trains to crash and awards to
be given and mild rain to
pass through and new hires
to be announced (some of these
were made up for effect) when
you live in the wilderness. I
suppose out there a person’s
perception changes and isn’t
so centered on being better
than they were the day prior.
Anyway, I have not viewed
news in the same light since
reading her words, and am
adding a few of my own here
so that you might make your
own decision on what I read.

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Elegy to a Maple

Going home this summer, I found the fence torn down halfway along itself, the same fence that divided our yard from the neighboring plant nursery – that I climbed over on one particular night with a childhood friend, and we wandered through an acre of potted trees taller than us and startled wild rabbits and I distinctly remember looking up at the stars, and in the veiled night felt the air of magic that children feel before they become adults and enchantment becomes something entirely different. And this night is what inspired Girls in the Garden, which is about trespassing onto another’s property after hours but is also very certainly about more than that.

And so last summer, upon returning to my childhood home during the same month we signed over our family’s property of 30 years to a land developer, I walked through the opening in this newly fallen fence and further into my backyard than I had been in years, to an aged and giant maple that like the next door garden I once personified into a friend, and in my memory still do, but at the time of this writing I don’t believe the tree still stands.

On this day I approached my Giant Maple Tree with hesitation, and I believe this is why: sometimes we wait to touch something that is good, because the sooner something begins, the sooner it also ends.

But of course I did touch it, because that is why I went to see it: to say goodbye. I put my palms on its moss-grown bark in the way a daughter touches a parent who is soon to die. I did not want to take my hands away.

I put my forehead against its trunk, the way a tired woman leans her face into a man’s shoulder. Who comforts who in this moment I do not know, but would like to believe it can go both ways, whether you are a woman or a man or a tree. Regardless, I did not want to take my face away.

I asked that they wait until I leave – until I flew home – to cut it down. Who wants to watch death.

The boating ropes we’d tied to it more than twenty years earlier were still wrapped around the trunk the day I pulled out of the driveway and watched my childhood home and the Giant Maple Tree disappear as we drove up the hill to the airport. Those ropes, once upon a time, at one end held the seat of a swing where my younger self would sit and sing as loudly as I wanted on the back half-acre.

By now the ropes must be gone, and of course, the tree too. Now I hold in my memory the branch that, for the span of at least one childhood, supported a comfortable swing for a young and awkward girl who for many years believed in the magic of her yard.

And now I must turn my face from its shoulder. Now, I have taken my hands away.

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The Community Garden

It is not what you expect to find
after trekking uphill five blocks
in the Japanese District after a
hot day in the city. It smells like
compost tumbling over itself
here on the side of the hill,
is strewn together good enough
with spare wood, multi-multi-use
buckets and laminated signs
some person with a printer
tacked to tree trunks to guide
visitors toward an exit; yes,
wabi-sabi enough to get lost.
It is how we ran our land when
I was young, making do with
parts of things and scraps and
pieces of other things. I forget
the city outside. Chicken coop
signs (please do not feed us rice),
sunflowers grown beyond a
hand’s span whose peach fuzz
necks bow to watch weeds sustain
this morsel of wild in the city,
now I barefoot along stone steps,
toe my way down the other side,
find a sitting-rock in the orchard
and do that a while among this
stench of four-days-fallen apples
and flies on a summer afternoon
and when I am done scribbling
memories search for more to do,
for more to think about, perhaps
another reason to stay put.

(August 27, 2019)

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