Horticulture Lessons

Mom dug and I nearly helped. Plastic trowel
in my seven year hands not turning much soil. Planting
was my magic step. The possibilities in wax paper packets
I ripped open and removed two seeds at a time.
Don’t crowd them but don’t let them get lonely.
Neat rows of squatting to poke holes drop seeds
and pat firm again again again to fill the raised box
claiming half the backyard. City concrete edged
the rental of those early years together.

There, before the new father
before we retreated my middle grade to the suburbs,
corner bars and neighbors’ eyes stayed open ‘til two am
but the daffodils out front never slept. Forsythia early,
iris late, tulips the whole time.

That first year Mom forgot
to mark the rows. Our thrill at the survival of each kind
a surprise until they reached teen age. I cheered their growth.
My affection without question or condition for the tangy earth
of early leaves as tomato stems grew hair and tight buds spread.
Pepper florets blushed as sunflowers out-stretched me
and the leaky hose hissed like a garter snake the cat didn’t care for.

One day Mom turned a leaf to expose
lemon-lime specks coursing the veins, dancing irregular
jigs around chewed holes and brown spots. Aphids.
I lifted my hand to squash them. Raise their blood a penance
for destroying even one leaf on my darling. But she held
my wrist. No. And we spent the afternoon catching ladybugs.

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