Starting a Garden
The rain let up long enough for us to sneak
through waist-high weeds, stamping down
sticker bushes to clamber over rotted fence posts.
We interrupted two Indian Paint mares, too old
to ride anymore, foraging. They watched us skirt
the edge of their fence, stepped towards us,
but we had no carrots. We watched them watch us.
On the walk back, we tried to sneak
past the neighbors in the midst of their divorce. We skirted
the front yard and edged down
to the barn full of junk we hoped to recycle, old
tools, other people’s memories. We found posts
we could use for raised beds, disturbed an outpost
of vultures who each kept one evil eye trained on us
as they hopped away. Through the trees, we could see the old
blue Toyota next door. Our neighbor sneaking
out the door, a load of boxes weighing her down
to the car, her usual work-pants substituted for a bright skirt.
I remember when she always wore skirts
and danced long evenings away, pre-marriage but post-
college. Her legs are fuller, now, a light down
neglected but barely visible. She doesn’t see us.
The car sinks low with clothes, sports equipment. She’s sneaking
out the detritus of a life. I wonder if my wife feels old,
watching, as I do. I pull out a post and find an old
raccoon corpse—fur and bone, hidden from beaks. My wife skirts
the mess of debris to squat before this old thing. I sneak
a glance at her face, the private joy of discovery. A post
clatters and we both look to the neighbor who looks to us
through the open barn door. My wife waves down
at her, and I see the darkening sky, branches coming down
in the high wind. The world feels tragic, here, lonely and old.
The neighbor slams her car door, ignoring us.
I watch her body move, imagine my wife in the days of skirts.
So much of our lives is past, I want to say. Instead, I drop the posts
to re-cover the raccoon. We decide to sneak
away. The neighbor’s house door slams, and we run down,
skirting the lawn as the skies open. My socks dampen in my sneakers.
The old world is washed away from the fence posts and our faces.
Return to Volume 6.4