For me, the honeysuckle does it. Out walking the dog, I pass through that place behind the apartment building where the vine-covered shrubs form a loose fence line with the neighboring townhouses. There, the scent lifts me up from whatever chaos is in my head. I pause and find one underneath, going for the yellow blossom. While the fulsome white catch the eye, I’ve learned from experience. The yellowed, crepey petals store astonishing sweetness.
The enemy does not live in you.
Your life is not your foe. Not your wounds or mistakes, not even the hurt you caused.
Not your temper. Not your failures. Not the paths you taken or those you’ve passed on, not your reckless love or your absent god.
The enemy does not occupy your mind. The enemy does not govern your chemical imbalance. The enemy never existed inside you. You didn’t let it infiltrate, storm the gates. You are innocent of that, if not of everything.
Ignore if you must what bends in the flat beds along the stretch of highway spooling out ahead,
those crepe-skinned crones in sun hats you could almost mistake for scarecrows.
Do you pause to wonder how old ladies always end up in the garden?
Do you notice us at all?
There is no end to pleasure. Our flesh, how its tastes change.
You barely pause to wonder how we end up in the garden. Crepe-skinned crones in sun hats, we busy ourselves with one of the few benign industries left to us in our diminished worlds. We cannot captain the ships, you reason. Cannot write the laws. We must see life backward now as our children and their children take the keys and set the route.
In your haste to cover the stretch of highway still spooling out ahead, you don’t waste attention on what occupies the roadside. We bend there, indistinguishable from scarecrows. From garden gnomes. It stands to reason (if anyone were to ask) that we surrender to these tiny corners of the world. Our puttering a last gasp at creation. Bygone artists, barren makers. Do you see us deflating into bodies long past their use-by date? Do you see us at all?
Invisibility is a curse for certain, though one we have a hand in casting.
The instructions said
to lay it deep
six weeks at least
before last frost.
You followed the steps
more or less.
That’s the only thing. Do anything else at all.
But don’t call.
Eat too much peanut butter. Water the plants. Walk the dog in the pouring rain.
Empty the suitcase. Start the laundry. Place the new pottery dish in its place.
Think about him again.
Don’t call. Continue reading “Listen Instead”
Like many neighbors doing their part to urge in spring, my son and I spend our weekend morning transplanting seedlings. Our task is to thin the herd. We approach this work with an unspoken awareness of the terrible, lovely power we possess. We get to decide which of these fragile things have their chance to carry on in larger containers, and which will return to beginnings.
My son with his still unbroken optimism rejects this as a false choice. He scrounges around the kitchen for used water bottles then saws off the tops and drill holes in the bottoms. Bringing them into the dining room where garden debris litters the table and floor, he paws through the dirt for discarded seedlings. We move as many wisps of roots as we can to their more capacious, though still temporary, homes.