Poems from gardening: 2015, 2021

Garden video shots

A garden shot.
My place of mediation
and communion with Mother Earth.
There is no racial profiling in the garden,
no victim hood and no guilt.
Just cool people who plant seeds
clear out weeds, and watch things grow.
We share the watering hose.

Another garden shot.
Too much shaking of the camera
to use in the final assignment.
Children are playing kickball on
an asphalt court in the background.

The garden also borders
the community pool. When drenched
with sweat from gardening work
I’ve often wanted to take a cool dip.
Haven’t done it yet.

Conversation in the garden

Talking okra plant #1:  I heard his footsteps when he left his house. I knew he was coming to see us.
Talking okra plant #2: But how’d you know he wasn’t going to the grocery store just up the street, or the Foggy Bottom Metro station?
Talking okra plant #3: He has a different spring in his step when he’s coming to see us.
Gardener arrives.
Gardener: I was here all along and I heard you all chatting. Come on now. How do you hear my footsteps? My house is half a mile away. And all the noise from traffic on K Street?
Talking plant #1: It’s an underground thing. Our roots tune in to certain frequencies underground. You didn’t know it, but you left your signature frequency here when you first tilled the soil for your garden plot.
Gardener: That was hard work. The gas-operated machine broke and I had to to it the old fashioned way. Sweat and tears. My, aren’t you all the pretty ones, with the big green leaves and lots of okra budding all over?
Talking okra plant #2: You make love to us with your daily visits, watering the soil around us whenever you come, tapping our flowers, pulling the weeds that try to choke us, and brushing away the ants that crawl up our stalks to take a sip of our sap.
Talking okra plant #3: I feel electricity when you touch my leaves. It’s like a gentle caress. My roots want to reach out and wrap around your legs.
Gardener: Oh, you all are so kind to me. It’s the main reason why I come every day.
Talking okra plant #1: But don’t forget your wife likes the green seed pods we make. Is that what you call okra? For us it’s just seed pods.
Talking okra plant #2: She’s only been here once, maybe twice. My roots haven’t quite figured out the sound of her frequency. But I think I like her since you do.
Gardener: Today’s harvest is going into an African dish she makes with stew meat and palm oil. The okra you all grow gives it a special flavor.
Talking okra plant #3: You tell her the taste comes from the love.
Talking okra plant #2: Yeah, the taste comes from the love.
Talking okra plant #1:  Yeah, the taste comes from the love.
All the talking plants, in unison: The taste comes from the love.

April 2, 2015

nothing has grown yet
in my one-week-old garden

I wonder will the little seeds
make it through early Spring’s late frost?

did I plant too soon?
was I over-anxious to begin?

I stick my finger in the ground –
it feels warm inside, underneath,

just half an inch deep where my seeds
rest – I think they will survive.

April 19, 2015

the garden is my primary place
for meditation these days,
in these majestic mountains,
in this place of serenity and beauty

I inherit an abandoned plot –
weeds have overgrown
last year’s plantings
and perennials –

preparing the beds for planting
i dig up old carrot roots,
unfound potatoes, decomposing,
and sundry forms of organic life

I crumble the good earth
with my fingers – I feel
the power in the soil
to sustain a new growth

with a shovel and a rake
I turn the old soil over,
exposing its underside
to sunlight and fresh air

then sprinkle a little mulch
in the furrows that form –
spread the mixture slowly,
evenly, to form a flat bed

it’s like an open wound,
exposed, that heals quickly
with sunshine and oxygen –
it’s time to place the seeds –

I punch holes gently, gently
in the heaping, heaving mound
and drop two or three seeds
into each little womb, and wait . . .

weeds grow like, well, weeds,
and must be plucked, removed –
and on dry days there is watering –
& waiting & hoping

today’s meditation is complete –
my body is tired from digging,
raking, bending, touching the soil –
I’ll sleep like a baby tonight.

Gardening I

gardening has given me
a different relationship
with the environment
than what I had before –

weather, mainly.
I fret a bit when it’s been dry –
and I worry when it rains
too long or too hard

or too frequently –
weeds are so much more adaptable –
and I have seeds in the ground,
and skin in the game.

Gardening II

all my verse is about gardening
these days, the rains that feed,
the weeds that choke (which is
their right to do), the late frost
that kills the tender shoots from seeds
I planted too early.

my sunflowers are quite the ladies,
bashful, tender, as they approach
their flowering stage, the carrots
need more thinning, their tops
the brightest green, and the turnip
leaves too tough to eat.

but one of the weeds has edible
leaves – I’ll think I’ll let it grow.

Gardening III

We are
the invasive species.
Like weeds,
our broad green leaves
block out sunlight
to the seeded plants –
our well-adapted root system
drains away nutrients
from below.

We think
we are the fittest
for survival –
the quickest to adjust
to environmental shifts,
and yet the most
resistant to superficial change.

We create thoughts,
make decisions to ensure security
for our progeny –

they will belong in the garden –
and they will cover up our
alien origins.

Summer solstice II

Sun Ra told us years ago the planet
was doomed – yet we believed,
deep inside, that our exceptionalism
and our privilege would pull us through
in the end – except it didn’t.

The doom we thought we’d avert
eventually consumed us, along
with everybody/everything else.

I had a large garden plot when I lived
in the mountains. Grew a row of sunflowers
from seed on the eastern border.

When they grew so tall with flowers
like crowns, I named each and called
them my ladies. Then one evening
in the valley of the lilies, we were visited
by a microburst – strange weather
in those mountains – and every tall thing
was leveled.

Each poem I write is about these things:
love, family, tribe and poetry. There.
You have the key. No need to guess,
I’ll tell you what’s up. I can’t escape
this destiny, and I cannot hide my pen.

Work Day at the Community Garden

It was work day at the garden.
My task was to clean out the tool shed.
Mirna was my work partner.

You could tell it had been closed up
For the winter – there were spider
And their spun homes everywhere –

Especially on the handles – spiders
Must know the smell of human touch
And bind themselves up there.

The shovels had been put away
Dirty, clogged with dirt and clay.
We cleaned each tool with wire

brushes to knock the old dirt off.
We pulled out every piece and cleaned it
Then we cleared the floor of debris.

I closed the tool shed door from inside
To clean the groove that housed
the sliding door. I experienced a taste

Of claustrophobia that cleared
as soon as the door was reopened
And light poured into the space.

Of claustrophobia that cleared
as soon as the door was reopened
And light poured into the space.
– April 5, 2021

NaPoWriMo 2021 #19

Weekend community gardening
Is mainly a social thing. Folks gather
to work on group projects, exchange
seeds sometimes, maybe cast
furtive, secret glances at each other
while tending to their garden plots.
There may be discussions of politics.
Do you have your vaccine done?

But on Mondays, cool cloudy Mondays
like today, the garden plots are empty,
except for mine. I can unmask if I
want to, work at my own pace.
The ground is still soft from tilling
last week. It rained, but the clumps
of dirt are dry, hard. I break them
up again, stirring in compost, bat guano

and old coffee grounds from last week
to enrich the soil. Building the rows
is repetitive and mindless. Four vertical
and five horizontal. The rows I make are
crooked because I‘m not paying attention.
Not that much. I‘m thinking about planting,
about the future. I’ve broken a sweat.
April 20, 2021