Letter to My Garden by Erica Sternin

Zucchini leaf

Zucchini leaf

This morning, mildew powders the zucchini leaves
and crows fly the obsidian highway.
Savoring my first dark coffee,
I long to plunge my fingers

Into your microbe-packed soil.

Your compost pile
is ready for turning.
Old into new.
The sun cuts through the grey mist;
And a rising tide of zeal, a warm yoke of sunshine
Eases my shoulders.

Lifting my pitchfork, I stab the cakey dar

And lift its jumbled weight.
It smells like earth, like life.

It reeks of magic.
It is a creeping, crumbling, potent threshold
Where death becomes…life.
Worms and decayed limbs
Sift between the tines of my fork.

I work slowly. My body moves in familiar ways
Shifting the compost
From the old pile to the new pile.
This is a rhythm, a dance almost,

A voiceless mutual understanding
Between a long married couple.
Me and you.

Within moments I am panting,
Weaving like a stunned ox dealt a death blow.
Shaking my head, disbelieving,
And never one to abandon work, I continue.
One more fork full.
Heat lightning zig-zags across my chest,
Reminding me that I’ve been pruned,
My diseased breast

Removed. I return to my bench, fluttering,
Resting between the two compost heaps.

I’ve done what I could for you this year; my

Seeding, weeding, plucking and grooming.
You’ve been a nag harpy.
The push-pull tension of your cross-cut saw
in the kerf is a constant.
I can’t give up on you, I can’t take care of you.
I can’t give up on you, I can’t take care of you.
You insist that I keep moving,
weeding, plucking, grooming, raking, staking, pruning, hacking, lifting, turning, it’s kept me alive this year.
I’m your bondswoman.
I’m grateful.

This summer the crops were slight,
Seeds were never planted,
Or planted but not thinned.
Some harvest was waiting, but never collected.
I sit, benched, with my steaming mug.

You, on the other hand, relentlessly bloom.
Morning glories topple into kale,
Pole beans billow into giant sails.
With me, without me, you have proven yet again,
Life is unrelenting.

A version of this piece, and a video interview with the writer, was published in Between the Lines, June 2015 by the Edmonds Community College Visual Communications 245 class.



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