Thursday, January 13, 2011

October Garden

I don't write much poetry. Unlike writing essays or stories, where I can fiddle around and poke away at the page until something comes, a poem will rise up suddenly and surge out like a flash flood. I have found that poems most often come to me in times of sadness. I wrote the poem "Poppies," shortly after my dad passed away last year. This poem, "October Garden," was written this past fall, about a year later.

October Garden
by Melissa Ann Goodwin

I have just finished cutting
down the crisp sunflower stalks at
the garden’s edge.
I let them go too long, I know –
dead flowers are bad feng shui
the finches needed more time
to pick the seed pods clean.
They didn’t come today so
I know they are done.

Dad has been gone a year,
this month.
I don’t know where it went –
the year, the time,
his lifetime now
just a blip
on the radar screen of
forever and ever Amen.

I am gathering the hollyhock pods –
papery fairy baskets swimming
with seeds.
I will give some to the neighbors
a few friends
my sister – they will look sweet
growing by her barn.

I wonder what Mom is doing today.
I picture her padding about in
her Rockport shoes and
red Talbots sweater
clutching her purse
tugging at the nurse’s sleeve,
“Have you seen my mother?”

The coneflowers look fried.
I should have cut them back
last week but it was windy
and there wasn’t time.
The sky is October blue
but just now I glimpsed November gray
lurking at the edges.
Any day now I will wake up to find
the last green plants have turned yellow and slick
as though struck by the flu overnight.

My birthday is soon.
Not one of those we call the Big One
but still, one that changes where I fall
in the scheme of things.
My insurance will go up
and I will have to mark a different
age-group box and there will be new rules
about what I am allowed to wear.

I will come out once more before
the snow falls, and cut back the roses
until they are woody stubs and
bury them alive under mounds of dirt.
But now
I will put away my tools
and go inside,
make a nice cup of tea
as my mother used to say –
and write this all down.

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