In my grandmother’s garden,
I feel the heat of the sun’s rays beat down,
Across the faded-print of my worn cotton shirt that covers me,
A thin shield of now nondescript color.
Beads of sweat run down my face and spine;
Sweat that’s just escaped my jumbled up mat of dark hair,
That’s wadded up beneath the floppy, wide-brimmed, straw hat,
That my grandmother hastily pulled down over my head,
Before she nudged me outside and into the world.
A gentle push on my shoulder, before the sharp crack,
Of the grey, weathered screen door,
Sounds against the wooden frame and disturbs my ears,
And causes the birds to pause their morning song.
The sound is almost as sharp to my senses,
As the bright light that assaults my eyes.
I trudge the few steps to the garden, and pause a moment,
To scratch the dogs behind their ears,
Before shoo-ing them away.
Squatting over the rows,
I begin to pull up by the roots, the invading army of weeds, one-by-one.
Even with care, sometimes I pull up a strong plant,
Or disturb a plant’s roots, break its fledgling stem,
And it both adjusts and recovers, stunted; or it dies.
I ignore the flies and bees that have gathered to watch the contest.
After all, I cannot hear their cheers, or boos, or cat-calls.
Every so often, I pause my assault and work the dirt with my hands,
And shore up a seedling’s tender green shoots,
But this doesn’t save them all.
It’s too early yet to steal,
A taste of young pea pod, strawberry, or corn,
Kissed with dew,
Enjoyed right there, in the middle of the field,
My theft unseen,
Except by the crows and the worms,
Who are always watching, and waiting.
In the middle of this battlefield I am an angel of both life and of death –
My definition depends on whether one is considered by my grandmother to be,
A useless, unwanted weed, or a productive, desired plant.
I know my grandmother’s war on the weeds is a battle that I cannot win.
They are insolent, and keep coming back, determined to survive.
The best I can hope for is a draw,
Where weed and plant co-exist,
Where one does not rob nor devour the other.
A gentle breeze stirs the air and I pause for a moment,
To lean back on my heels, arch my back,
And look up at the clear blue sky that stretches on to forever,
And I breathe.
I raise my right hand to wipe the sweat from my brow with my wrist,
The button at my sleeve smears a track of dirt on my face,
And I bow my head to return to the task at hand.
Crouched in my grandmother’s garden,
Surrounded by weeds and plants,
Sweat rolling off me,
Covered in dirt,
I am connected to all that came before me,
And all that will come after me.