waitress poems

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

THE GARDEN

I hate vegetables, you said, and what's more
I haven't been hungry in months. I was digging
the hardened soil behind my apartment,
determined to make a garden. While I pulled roots
and defined a border with rocks, you stood
at the edge of my plot, clutching your story
in your fist like a ragged hat.
I was a neghbor who kept to herself,
but you told me about a recurring nightmare
in which you go home to San Juan
and find your family name erased
from the phone book; and no matter how many days
you walk through the city, you can't find
the street where you lived as a child.
While I went on digging, you spoke of the job
you didn't have, the days you passed from hand to hand--
tickets to a concert taking place elsewhere.
Finally you told me again how little you ate,
meticulously listing the foods
that had grown tasteless in your mouth:
chicken, mofongo, even the bitter grapefruit.

Two days later you jammed a .22 into your mouth,
determined, at last, to taste. But I could not listen
to the talk that followed your death,
without thinking about the stealthy garden
that was beginning to grow in your absence.
I thought of the tomatoes' red perfection and the taste
of dirt I could not wash from the carrots.
I saw the small boys who pilfered my cucumbers
and the best of the watermelons;
I heard their laughter as they spit out the seeds.
I remembered the day you spoke to me
as the soil lodged beneath my fingernails.
I scrubbed and scrubbed my hands for months,
but in dreams, I turned the earth again.
In dreams your words returned with the dirt
and the shape of the hoe in my hand.
In dreams you are still walking,
searching for the street of your childhood.
Sometimes you come to the edge of my garden,
looking as if your hunger has finally returned,
and I know that no matter how much food I grow,
it will never be enough.

12 Comments:

  • clutching your story in your fist like a ragged hat - wonderful!
    it's not fair to pick out lines/images as the whole poem works so well
    i enjoy the language and the story - and the combination exceeds them both
    thank you

    By Blogger floots, at 11:20 PM  

  • Floots: I have been neglecting this blog so much lately, I wasn't sure anyone was still bothering to visit. Great to see you are coming around with your soprano recorder and your thoughtful commentary.

    Thank you.

    By Blogger Patry Francis, at 8:32 AM  

  • Fantastic!

    Now...what happened to the poem that used to be before this, the one after the Chicken Man poem listing things you'd seen? Did it vanish, or did you take it off? Or, in my dementia, do I have this site confused with someone else's?

    By Anonymous Sara, at 9:33 AM  

  • wow, this is so indescribably powerful. There is sadness and regret without the weight of unneeded sentimentality - wonderful imagery, and ... I could go on and on. I simply love this piece.

    By Blogger Erin, at 10:47 AM  

  • sara: no, it's not dementia. I thought I might submit the listing poem for publication, so I took it off the blog. And thanks so much for your comment on this one. I promise to leave it alone--at least for a while.

    Erin: Great to see you here again. Your words and your visits are much appreciated.

    By Blogger Patry Francis, at 12:35 PM  

  • Haunting

    By Blogger David, at 8:54 PM  

  • Wonderfully understated deep emotions, the quiet chipping away of a life, masterful as always

    By Blogger Sue hardy-Dawson, at 9:52 AM  

  • David: Thanks for the visit; I've got to get over to your blog and soak in some of your humor.

    And Sue: Thanks, as always.

    By Blogger Patry Francis, at 1:15 PM  

  • Absolutely marvelous!

    By Blogger Queen Neetee, at 8:48 PM  

  • It flows and cannot be stopped, even when bad things happen, and is therefore so real. Truely beautiful. What impresses me most is how you are able to be thoughtful without being pensive. Great Patry!

    By Blogger Russell Ragsdale, at 9:36 PM  

  • Patry, thanks for stopping by my blog. I just discovered yours yesterday and am happy to make your acquaintance! I'll be back.

    By Blogger MB, at 10:21 PM  

  • This is such a multi layered marvel that I am going to reread it again and again, discovering new delicious delights everytime. Great.

    By Blogger sigmund fraud, at 8:06 AM  

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