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.
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