Saturday, November 26, 2022

This Year's Garden


This Year's Garden
We wanted, we planned for
tomatoes and cucumbers, okra, too
and three kinds of peppers,
basil for the bees, fennel and dill
for the flower-winged flyers,
so small and now so few.

We planted, and first the south wind came
in the child's light of April, a wild
graceless thing tearing and roaring,
ripping leaf from stem. So we built windbreaks
from old boards and rocks;
life obliged us and held on.

Then came the ruin of heat, four weeks early,
bringing a cloudless sun-blurr of blue
too cruel to call sky, as basil was sprouting
thick from last year's dropped seed.
So we rose every morning at daybreak
to water, a drink portioned by hour

bed by bed, scrawled on the calendar
so none were forgotten
for what is forgotten here dies.

From this we got a dozen tomatoes,
seven or eight cucumbers full
of hard, tough seeds, a thousand pepper blooms
that became a hundred peppers, and okra
past counting, stretching up and swaying
in its African dance while a forest

of basil trembled every daylight hour
with the nuzzling of bees. In August
we planted cabbage for fall cropping
while okra was still king, feeding us every night 
until the first frost came four weeks early,
having learned from the heat.
So we ordered hoops and row covers, and built
the cabbage a white room above the dirt.
Now I go out in the biting cold and pull the extra quilt
from their bed so the weak light can stroke them.
I look at the okra, brown poles on the compost,
remember the bees' tourmaline forest of herbs
that sprang up like star-wishes never told;
all these treasures whisper me their names,
alive for me under sun and moon,
loaning me breath for one more season.
November 2022


posted for earthweal's

(a more literal take on Monday's Tending a Difficult Garden)

Basil Around the Bird Bath, August 2022
Inside The White Room, November 2022 both ©joyannjones


  1. In the midst of all this agricultural misfortune, you created at a luscious story poem that delights.

  2. This difficult garden is tended in media res, in the Change's moment, between what was and what will be. It is a collective garden, "our" garden (a reminder to us all), and the efforts to attend with care in the midst of change results in a wild harvest, at least "breath for one more season." Meaning, I take it, that life is a resilient buggar if we pay attention and care for conditions as they are, not were or as we wish. This year's garden is also this year's poem, attended in times not propitious, as Eliot put it, but whose possibilities are rich for those who accept that. Or as Stevens put it better, It Must Change. Hard work but what a harvest, this lovely lively garden moment you've captured in full.

  3. I love the photograph of your beautiful basil plants! You and I both need something alive to tend and nurture. In doing so, we somehow feed ourselves on a soul level in addition to the benefit given to whatever we're lovingly tending. Rather amazing when you think of how we were, um, tended as youngsters. But somehow we have turned all that around and the peace we gain from these efforts is an absolute good. As Jeff Goldblum might say, life has found a way.

  4. I admire anyone who can make anything grow - but especially foodstuffs. It is an important skill that too many of us have lost.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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