John Smith

Photo by Flora Westbrook from Pexels

Margaret’s Garden Hands

Margaret’s garden hands are dark,
mud-caked, bordered by lighter,
dried dirt, the pit of her palms
peeking through. They look like
blotchy prints of brown paint
a child pressed on a paper plate
or relief maps, the topography
of a life lived as close to earth
as a life can get this side of it.
But my sister’s hands aren’t prints
or raised maps. They’re cultivators,
as were our father’s, small
but strong and no strangers
to bare fistfuls of soil or fingernails
cracked and grouted; in fact,
first-hand familiar with the grip
and rip of weeds uprooted,
a clingy ball of earth, the weighty
shaking loose, and stubborn worms
that won’t let go, even with
part of them writhing on the
ground beneath. Years ago,
among unripe tomato plants
and the warm, licorice scent
of basil, sweet as memory itself,
Margaret’s hands were first
to touch our father lying
on his back in the garden,
life outgrown him. See how she
washes them now, one toughened
hand at a time, with the green
garden hose in the other.


Editor’s Note:
A simple action of washing muddy hands turns into a tender trip down the memory lane for the narrator and illustrates the continuity of life is and organic nature of life. The assonance and consonance keep the lines moving smoothly.
John Smith’s poetry has appeared in journals such as SmartishPace, Berfrois Journal, The Literary Review, and Spillway. His work has been set to music by composer, Tina Davidson, and commissioned by New Jersey AudubonHis book of poetry is titled Even That Indigo. John lives in Frenchtown, NJ with his wife, the calligrapher and henna artist, Catherine Lent.

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