Low Maintenance


The English ivy blossoms in the yard
as ugly as the fungus where a tile
lost its grout, tenacious and as hard
to lose. In shape like jacks collected while
the ball allows, they’re wasp-attracting sprawls
of pestilence and immortality:
pale-toned and too prolific, like the calls
of telemarketing vitality.

Beneath peculiar sky the flowers spread
their awkward shapes, their undistinguished scent,
their stupid futures. Better they were dead
than uncontrolled. Better if they went
away with eucalypts. No garden needs
these rampant vines. We ought to call them weeds.



The plant matures to arid as days pass,
withstands the wind more weakly every week,
till pummeled and untethered, it’s a mass
that tumbles free and spherical: a freak-
ish vagabond that travels whither when
and how the currents of the wind command,
experiencing forth and back again,
in rootless disconnection from the land.

So I’ve been dried and battered by a mess
of problems coming at me that won’t stop.
No sooner have I shaken off one stress
than on my head another one will drop
till like the tumbleweed I’m shaken free,
and anchorless I’m flitting giddily.



The earth has wheeled again around the sky;
a dozen months have cycled in their turn.
If we could watch the revolution high
above ourselves, then maybe we would learn
our planet’s like a dandelion heart:
The stem is spun between the maker’s hands;
our days are seeds in gossamer that part
from us as spinning energy expands,
and fly away in strands of spider fluff,
like ashes, dust and memories of youth,
that settle randomly but sift enough
upon our shoulders that we feel the truth
enkerneled in the days of every year,
and never known until they disappear.



I woke to see tigridias outside
my bedroom door: two open painted flowers.
They bent beneath the heat and would have dried,
except I took them in to grace the hours
of a Saturday in late July.
It did no damage that I severed them.
Their fragile petals stood and charmed my eye
from early morning until 5 pm.

One spattered yellow in a crimson cup;
the other was magenta poured on cream.
Two triple lobes until they’re folded up
like silken ribbon wrapped around a dream
of summer – fleet and hot and passing bright –
these flowers hold, that never breathe at night.

The Gardener’s 48th Birthday


With purple mint the gardener conversed,
while students took an Easter break from school.
He dug a hole on March the 31st
and called himself an aging April fool.
He stuck bromeliads in rotting wood,
and sought the snaking irrigation hose
beneath the silted ivy. Then he stood
and studied how the blue datura grows.

I watched him as I bent to rinse the mud
that caked the steps. Against the mortared brick
I aimed the water, where the winter flood
had left its mark. He paused to throw a stick
the dog retrieved and said, “I guess I’m great,
compared to how I’ll feel at 68.”

The General

general tree

I ambled in the park the other day,
beneath the overcast and through the clumps
of eucalyptus, picked a curving way
avoiding poison oak and gnarly stumps,
that brought me when I paused before this tree:
a eucalyptus too but very strange.
Its shape suggested oak – it twisted free
of straight constraint and made its branches range
more outwardly than up. In strips its bark
like packing tape depended from its Vs;
its under skin was whiter than a stark
gray birch. It seemed the general of trees.
Amid the ordinary it stood out
and lured me louder than the kids could shout.



The metal railing hot against my hand
where sunlight silvers it, and steely cool
beneath the shade, I fully understand:
Such education doesn’t need a school.

The turn of leaves of birch upon the breeze,
refracting green as sequins prism light,
is vision comprehensible with ease:
I don’t need words from me to see it right.

But yesterday, the garden featured two
that bloomed on stalks and only lived one day:
A pair with scarlet spots on lemon hue,
that opened butter soft, in an array
of layered tongue-shaped petals, three on one,
that blazed and then expired with the sun.