The Gardener


High summer bursts against my retinas like a swiftly spun kaleidoscope. I am small and in happy solitude, towing the garden hose behind me as my bare soles twitch and twirl on worn deck wood. Part child, part sunburnt dervish, I whirl by the pots jammed with flora and they drink the heavy drops and stay always always thirsty.

Against the backdrop of blossoms, in the thick of succulents and coiffed shrubbery, you are elbow-deep in loam, pulling the goodness from nothing, discovering great bursting life in the small, the unsure. How do I explain the curvature of plants as they leaned in your direction? As if they could discern the difference between the sun’s scorch and your gentle heat.

The mountain laurels shake their bouquets like tiny, opening fists. Closely clustered, crepe myrtles keep to themselves. Hibiscus are opera singers, their vain reverb oscillating off the roof of blue overhead. Are they waiting for the soft clap, the echo of sound between gardener’s gloves?

Come and dig, you say, my mother. And we bring life to each bloom until the day’s eyelids flutter, hungry at last, for sleep.

Small me, collapsed and drowsy, plucking at lullaby splinters, stuck sweet and near, just above my earlobes, my palms resting rough and stained against the pillow white. Behold this legacy of umber earth. An inheritance of dirt beneath fingernails, passed down as if it were fine china.

With hands that look like your hands, I too, will take up spade and soil. With hands that look like your hands, I too, will weave braids into my someday daughter’s hair. These clumsy appendages of mine finding that loom smoothness was hidden in them all along.

And so I will do what you have done for my sister and I. Intertwining our roots. Placing us in direct sunlight. Glazing with tender water. How greedily we drank, then. How marvelous our green against the sky. Yes, in this clime, we three bulbs of the same flower, planted seasons apart can all grow older in parallel lines.