Today I watched you pick Azaleas
from the nursery to be planted beneath
our picture window even though,
five years ago I thought of killing us both,
and then you saw the snap dragons,
but it is too late in the year
for snap dragons.
I selected the petunias with plenty of buds
and few blossoms to fill the space by our front
porch. Looking at each plant for a sign of vigor,
just as I had once examined my own body
to look for the signs of decay.
I like the potential of totally green petunias,
walking past them in the morning to pick up my paper,
day by day, I can see them pop, one by, sometimes, one.
The green and rusted cart is loaded down with colors
ready to be transplanted into our nuclear family
and home where once I took five showers a day
and spent hours making myself vomit
trying to ease the tightness in my belly.
Our yard and life are lived in and comfortable.
A soccer mom smiles at me as I taste the rosemary
from a table filled with living herbs and I think of potting
enough to keep our kitchen smelling used or maybe
just so much as it takes to cover up the odor of our
most unflattering fight when we told the kids about my
ugly side and you said you wanted my head to explode.
But soccer moms don’t get to know you well enough
to make educated decisions, so they smile at everyone.
Begonias need a new name but you bought some
for the treasure chest on the back porch where “full sun”
is an understatement regardless of what your name is.
I have known for years that when I died, on the front page,
the second paragraph would have to say “history of mental illness”
somewhere, keeping me from concentrating on the sweat that
falls onto your lips and is wiped away by my favorite tongue.
Unloading the car, I remembered I needed to turn the compost before it
got too hot and burned out the nutrients that I work so hard to save
and recycle into our yard filled with flowers and where I began to notice
four years ago this spring that I could be a father and a husband and like
my gardens, I needed care and you with your cotton-pink gloves covered
with soil could look up from digging out the daffodil bed to move the hair
sticking to your face in spring while the clouds moved in and out of our life.
by J. Rod Pannek
from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 1, March 2006
Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim