In the Garden

I work under the wispy sky,
planting azaleas.
The earthy, fertile smell
and the wooden shovel weight
take me to a different day.
I had a window seat
and leaned my forehead against the glass,
watching the newly sprung fields pass.
A trailer, a house, a barn,
chickens pecking on a lawn.

I saw a side-by-side man and wife
on bended knees working in their flowerbed.
Digging? Pulling weeds?
At seven, I knew where these would go
for skirting their weekly duty,
putting on work boots while I wore
patent leather and panty hose;
it was a place of outer darkness,
seven times hotter than the fire we know.
I wondered how they could be so bold.
“They’re working on Sunday,” I marveled.
“During church hours, too—” a front-seat reply.
Our brown sedan hummed down the road.

On this budding green, blue-sky Sunday,
the air breathes clean,
light glistens on rain-freshened fronds,
and the shovel sinks into unrelenting soil.
I bend to plant a sapling.
A car whirs down the road.

Intervention

I.

A brown-Galaxie rumble down a drive
alongside kids bouncing on a rusted-out
trampoline car seat, grass-grown high.
Mama’s words: “Don’t you do that.”

Then, “No, she ate breakfast at home,”

and a forehead-kiss goodbye.

A teacher flitting away,
a kid scarfing grits at the far end of
the long, low, mud-orange table.

Alone in the social other,
I hid behind a Highlights cover.

A sudden, yanking matador flourish—
“You. can’t. read!”
My small fingers empty.
My small self whispering,
“I never said I could.”

II.

An older sleeping self
remembers. Stands.
Glares into glaring eyes
and breathes between baby teeth,
“Hand over that magazine
and go finish your damn grits.”

Past-altering subconscious intervention
skirting backward bullied preschool days,
achieving entrance to a rusted snake-den
trampoline,

not getting knocked down
across a dusty playground scene
over and over again.

 

Laura Johnson teaches English and ESOL at Fayette County High School in Georgia. She recently graduated from Fairfield University’s low-residency MFA program, and has been published or accepted by Time of Singing, Blue Heron Review, Literary Mama, Ground Fresh Thursdays, and others. She writes about faith and doubt, family and relationships, pets, and the general hazards of growing up as a human being. Check out her Poet’s Page on Facebook.