The Inconstant Gardener

I came to believe women were flowers,
fragile things, ever ready to wither;
the briefest neglect, the slightest insult,
and the petals would darken, fall away.

My father was a gardener; I learned
of the flower’s fickleness first from him,
who had hurled curses at his rosebushes
and drank when they ceased to bloom at his touch.

He still likes flowers; he still talks of them,
of their briars and thorns and soft sadism,
but no more of their beauty, their perfume,
the feathery caress of inner down.

So I, too, came to see them as a task
and when I came to the garden, I came
to work, to till and plow and sweat and bleed
for precious things that had lost all value.

I spent years in that garden, hating it,
hating the bees and the heat and the ache
felt only by those who have shouted hoarse
at ever-almost blooms, ever only almost.

I never bothered to water; tears sufficed,
as I watched joy thrive in my neighbors’ lots,
where flowers were tended like so many weeds,
vivid hues struggling past discarded beer cans.

I envied them their tattered, brilliant blooms,
marvels bursting uncoaxed from harsh soil,
and I would scale the fence, from time to time,
to liberate a lone, forgotten beauty.

I adored these stolen lives, every one
a shard of stained glass, ready to shatter
at the touch that, in my ardor, always came
too soon, and I would weep as they wilted.

I thought the love I bore gave me license,
as my father did, to lay claim and lament
when the transplants longed for foreign soil,
growing again only when given away.

And so, my garden became a graveyard,
and I, a drunk, content to curse and wallow
and preach the inconstancy of flowers
to fellow failed gardeners, broken men.

I walked through fields of light, bottle in hand,
and saw only colored tumult, the blues
of bruises, the rouge of whores, brassy golds
filling my absent heart with fresh loathing.

In my youth, I had dreamt of a garden,
a garden of my own, full with but one bloom,
one perfect flower to last forever,
but dreams are for children, and I had grown.

My garden had grown, too, in my absence.
A single seed careless sown, then left wild,
was now in full flower, and through dull eyes,
still I saw the glory, the grace, that could be.

But I had broken so many of them,
and I blamed myself for each fragrant corpse
and feared for the fate of this fragile sprout
in the care of this calloused gardener.

I became ill with her, when she fell ill,
neglected her, when I felt neglected,
repaid imaginary slights with real ones,
and spoke of love, when I felt only fear.

Each day, I awoke expecting her gone,
another victim of an inept gardener,
and when she lasted through another night,
I would smile, and say, “So, tomorrow, then.”

I have since lost count of the tomorrows
that have passed in my garden, now called ours,
where she rises like the sun, constant and warm;
still, I doubt even the surety of sunrise.

She never doubts the sun, for she has faith,
and where there is faith, fear cannot take root,
so each day is the first of all the rest,
rather than one day closer to the last.

Oh, to have the faith of such a flower,
to stop plucking petals of love, love not,
to sit in our garden, watch the sun rise,
and rest assured it will again, my love.

I am a gardener, like my father before;
I worked so hard to grow one, as he did,
yet now that I have it, work is all that I know.
Teach me, love, to have the faith of a bloom.

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