Garden Sitting

By Jennifer Dorner

for my mother

Season of moths in the strawberries.
An apple or two fallen from the tree.
Plums not yet ripe, through the cornstalks
are burdened with silk,
the vine tomatoes split,
and the sunflowers track the sun,
a bee in each dark center.

Late to the tasks you left me
I unfold the watering instructions again,
late to harvest the beds circled
on your hand-drawn map.

The evening is a haze,
sheets of starlings stretched
over the mown grass field,
a brush of red beneath
the shadowed tree line.

This week I read about the dying,
how those who have passed
can speak to the ones left behind
in the language of what they loved.
One man who tended rhododendron gardens,
a canopy of blossoms suddenly falling
over his first daughter’s car
while the second daughter
gathered a loose cluster
blown down into her path
the moment their father died.

I slide your patio door open, step over
trays of vegetable starts
on the faded rug
packed with potting soil.
Your handwriting vertical on the slim
labels beside each stem:
chard, fennel, romaine, madeley,

winterkeeper. I wish I’d known better –
this world of straw hats and arthritic wrist,
the duct-taped trowel,
these rubber boots that fit my feet.

Jennifer Dorner’s poems have appeared in Chicago Quarterly Review, San Pedro River Review, Sugar House Review, Cloudbank, The Timberline Review, The Inflectionist Review, and other journals. Dorner won 1st Place in the Willamette Writers Kay Snow Award for Poetry in 2019 and was longlisted for the 2020 Sappho Prize. She completed her MFA at Pacific University in 2020. She lives in Portland, Oregon. 

Originally appeared in New Ohio Review 29.

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