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By Sue Cowing

Back when my heart lay briefly under yours,
people still believed a baby was made
from whatever its pregnant mother saw or thought.
You sowed flowers in me with your blood--
dogwood, pansy, Queen Anne’s lace--
half seed-catalogue, half roadside wild.


It wasn’t really so bad, was it,
a crabapple for our family tree,
the apples so small and sour they were good
for jelly only?  You taught me early to forgive
that stingy fruit, because in bloom our tree
would shout over the neighborhood’s pale cherries
like a giant azalea.  At sunset
it was the last pink candle to go out.
You’d lift me to the rosy window.  “Look!”


Soon you were raising cabbages for the War
Effort, the earned honey of discipline.  You,
who wore only blues or browns or grays,
would build us a gleaming purple shrine
of eggplant on the kitchen table, thrill
to red tomatoes deepening on the sill.
I’d work the row behind you, doing what you did.
“Plants want to live,” you said.


Once I’d left home, I’d buy sweet peppers,
display and sniff them eagerly,
like you, but  couldn’t (you said wouldn’t)
seem to grow my own.  You’d come to visit,
choose a plot, improve the soil
and get some beans in, then leave me
in charge of yellowing.


But now, now that the world’s half gone,
everything’s coming up! I can’t go wrong.
I’m as tall as corn.
I send pictures to you in Illinois
of things I’m growing we never grew:
the giant yellow hibiscus “Angel Yellow”
and a floppy pink-white one, “June Bride.”


The disposal can’t have my seeds anymore,
I’m slipping them into the ground--
avocado stones in their buttery uteri,
sweet larvae of pomegranate, the cantaloupe’s
loose baby teeth.  I even planted gourds,
forgot them until they shot up under the plumeria
waving their seed-husk hats, saying, “See?”
It doesn’t matter about fungus and nematodes
and everything ultimately falling down.
Nothing is wasted now.  It’s a victory garden.





from Chaminade Literary Review, Spring/Fall 1996

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