Words burn. Wounded words Smolder from the day before. Scorched, we mourn in the stench of scorn.
I sit at my computer screen. You stare out the door At your weeping cherry trees. Bereft, we gather what is left.
An unknown bird, brilliant yellow, Lands in a weeping cherry tree. Offering his bell-like song, He cocks his smart red head.
I freeze. You tiptoe toward your camera. A joint mission takes the place Of bitter and bewildered thoughts And leads us where we both belong, Dizzy in the healing heights Of chasing God’s own creature’s song.
“Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. Matthew 5:25-26
I don’t think in a straight line. My thoughts lead to places unexpected, That make no sense to the casual observer. Tell me to put two and two together And you may regret it, or at least walk away Shaking your head, bewildered and frustrated.
In fact, my thoughts will do that for you — Walk away shaking their heads, that is. A brilliant idea will feel ill at ease, unwelcome and unwanted.
The Savior says, “Come to terms quickly with your accuser.” This morning, original thoughts, feeling broken and betrayed, Stare at me from the mirror, attempting reconciliation.
“Your accuser will hand you over to the judge,” the Savior continues, I glance at that lonely original thought, whose accusing eyes brim over, And my stony heart melts.
“Come to terms quickly with your accuser,” Jesus continues, “Or you will be thrown into prison.” By now, I’ve opened a notebook And write the beginnings of a story That may or may not make sense to every reader.
“You will never get out until you have paid the last penny,” My Lord says.
By now, the words are tumbling onto the page, Singing and skipping and keeping up perfectly well With my zigzagging logic. The fine is erased from the books And the prison door is flung open, Unable to hold back the colors, sounds and smells Of free thinking.
Planting a vegetable garden seems urgent this year. I suppose it always has been. But after weeks of walking lockstep with death, social distancing, And pandemic statistics, We think it wise to plant more than we did last year.
My favorite store’s garden display Sits in the parking lot, where the early afternoon sun Highlights the multitude of greens, pinks and blues That pop up in rows of peat pots.
Lockstep indeed. I forget how it feels to just be myself. Until I see myself as one of many gardeners, Roaming through the rows of potted herbs and vegetables. Still maintaining a safe distance, Face masks come off in the safety of outdoors.
I settle on basil and dill plants And an assortment of vegetable seeds, for now. In our backyard, amid half barrels and raised beds, The trowel plunges into the soil. It could be any spring, any year. Our shih tzu watches with contagious joy,
Lockstep indeed. My husband had read the news this morning: The pandemic could last at least two years.
My thoughts return to the peat pots of basil. Our dog has wandered to a sunnier spot. I momentarily believe the smile in his eyes, And put my faith in roots, shoots, soil microbes, The giant walnut tree in the neighbors’ yard, And the age-old hope of planting a vegetable garden.
Evening’s hush permeates the house. April’s premature thunderstorm has settled down. I’m the last one awake; even the dog has worn himself out. Scribbled notes, stacked on my husband’s desk, look forward to becoming free verse, villanelles or sonnets.
A solitary robin sings as if thinking out loud, reviewing the day, exhaling as her little ones sleep.
I sit in my recliner, iPad in lap, ready to write. A Google search turns up poetry prompts. I type random words until a poem clears its throat and taps me on the shoulder. “This way,” it whispers. I follow meandering paths of meter, line breaks and alliteration. We delight in clever phrases and poignant memories, that poem and I.
Where did it come from? If only I knew!
The solitary robin falls silent, asleep until dawn. Our refrigerator crackles and pops its way through automatic defrost. The last glimmer of sunlight slips between the living room shutters.
I put the poem to bed, wondering why anyone would want to read a poem About a poet writing a poem.
I thank God that the pandemic is in the spring — As opposed to the winter, that is, in all its bleakness. Winter just sulks in its grayness. But spring is polite enough to give the illusion Of new beginnings.
Take our rhubarb patch, for example — An April harvest when it’s too early to plant! Bright red stalks of sour goodness Lift up wrinkly, oversized green leaves.
You can pull up the stalks as easy as pie, Or cobbler, or chutney. “Watch out for the leaves,” we warn little kids Who’ve never seen rhubarb grow. “They’re poisonous.”
Rhubarb red just may be my favorite color. My first taste of the sour stalk took place in sixth grade, When my friend Janine brought some to school. Expecting something like celery, I nearly cried at the first hair-raising bite, But proudly hid my horror and chewed loudly.
Rhubarb red dyes the cutting board as I chop today’s harvest. I place the pieces in freezer bags, And take pictures for social media.
Relieved to have a harvest again, I forget about daily reports Of confirmed positive virus cases, And remember what it was like To buy sugar without wearing a mask.
November’s cold-hearted shadow falls over the backyard.
“Too bad,” our guests shook their heads,
Glancing up at the bare, gray branches of the towering black walnut.
“Too bad we missed the tree in the summer.”
“It must have been beautiful.”
“Now it’s just drab.”
A faint chill, hinting at approaching winter,
Sent the remaining dry, clinging leaves into a sigh.
Later that evening, after the guests went home,
I visited my tree (only the tree and I know that we belong to each other).
In July, her deep green shade had protected me
From high desert afternoons,
As I watched our Shih Tzu play.
“Look up,” said my tree in July, as she offered her sturdy branches, heavy with green walnuts,
To squirrels and sunlight.
Now, in November, I brace myself for shorter daylight hours
And wonder what my tree will do for the next several months.
“Look down,” she whispers, not bothered at all
When people say “too bad.”
“Go down deep,” she says, “go where the roots do their secret work after it snows.”
My tree shares her grandmother spirit
With those who know she is more than enough,
Even when the work is unseen.
Even in the quiescence of winter, as her roots
Lie between resting and ready.
Even as her sapwood slowly dies,
To become the heartwood core she’ll need for the journey ahead.