Planting Season for the Alcoholics
Rachel clears her asparagus patch,
yanks old brambles, digs out pokeweed,
burdock. Last year was not a good year,
hospital stays during the July heat wave,
bad liver tests. The garden was scorched,
neglected, wild. Rachel was exhausted.
If the damned children wanted to help
they could have shut up and weeded.
At least it's over with the dental work--
she should have given in to dentures years ago.
Lime is what this asparagus needs.
Billy got the house and the baby.
The judge noted his D.U.I.s
but the tracks on his wife's arms
impressed him more. Billy peruses
the seed catalogue, tries to get this
golden-haired daughter to focus
on photos of fourteen-foot sunflowers.
When he points to rutabaga, she hits
his hand with a plastic cup. Listen, kid,
are the heat-resistant Brussels sprouts
better than the tasty nugget hybrids?
The wife realizes how much she's lost
since the settlement in November.
This spring she broods in her basement
apartment with her box of wine.
She's driven unlicensed, uninsured,
unregistered past garden beds,
flowered borders. When she visits
the baby, she can't believe how narrow
the sidewalk seems, how the posies
and herbs overwhelm, how exuberantly
they grow in her absence.
Emphysema hunches Ramsey’s shoulders.
He digs for two minutes, then rests
on the shovel. Tomatoes, of course,
will be his mainstay, chilis come through
when all else fails. He could put in peas
right now, lettuce too, radishes, spinach.
He draws on his inhaler, studies tulips,
daffodils, imagines lilies, foxglove.
As a kid, he stole cigarettes, smoked
them in his grandmother's hollyhocks.
He loves even the sound of hollyhocks.