After Robert Minervini’s “Improvised Garden II (Water Street)”
more and more of my friends
are becoming parents or partners
i have lived long and short enough
to remember the homegirls who
danced non-stop until three a.m.
the moon a parabola to our party
i’ve grown up enough
to see them sing their favorite slow songs
to herbs and succulents on their windowsills
in homes they sowed from dreams
the same sister who once dug a heel into
a man’s oblique now steals thyme with me
off of suburban bushes after brunch
in my neighborhood
when a friend locked herself out—
the same person who loses wallets &
laptop chargers & saves my broken earrings
with a hot-glue gun in her backpack—
this pinay macguyver
has me breaking into her house at night
where we be tiptoeing over her
forest of planted avocado jars
into her dark room to find warmth
the one whose living room and bedroom
once resembled a flea market
or a super fly thrift store
and sometimes ikea—
the one who let me stay
she pays full price for potters &
vases—pronounced with the short
& therefore expensive ‘a’ sound
one womxn named her garden
“grown and sexy”
bringing new meaning
to the phrase garden hoe.
another who tops burritos with
white sauce dots like queen anne’s lace
also commits the crime of eating
one half at a time, you know, meal planning
with a sweet tooth, she drinks all of her horchata
& knows how
my family loves orchids &
she brings me them for my birthday
or any other tuesday
my mentee once congratulated me with
mint & basil & lavender & rosemary—
sweet aromas gifted when i
was leaving a job that left me to rot
for another that was not an office
with no windows, no green
the women in my life reroot
over oceans & provinces & planes to cultivate
a geography of trunks & limbs
reminding me that to decompose
is the chance to live again
my mother’s rose bushes open wide this spring
in her backyard without her
my mother’s body is buried in a plot
of other bodies without mine
isn’t a cemetery a garden
of all we’ve loved?
and isn’t a garden full
of already dead things?
those who bury their beloved
put the gentlest parts
of themselves into soil
my mother is a seed
the first woman i cannot unplant
cannot pull or twist back into my hands
her orchids bloom reaching
how delicately the petals hang off
their stakes like gold, glass bangles on wrists
against disco lights against the ambiance of a food truck menu
like lip gloss how bougainvillea spill onto sidewalks
like how the sun stays lit
during an eclipse
the flowers in my garden grow lively
& loving & hungry from pods & cinderblocks
my friends are florists
they water & cry & bloom & sleep
from loss & clay & unfolded laundry
sometimes we grow tired & tough
sometimes you have to open a cactus to cut
pieces off so we don’t grow stuck
arranging the flowers
in my garden
is a lattice
a life lesson
Copyright © 2020 Janice Lobo Sapigao. Originally published for the San José 11th Annual Poetry Invitational. Used with permission of the poet.
When Milo was a kitten
and spent the night
with us in the big bed,
curled like a brown sock
at our feet, he would
wake before daybreak,
in his best Burmese,
and make bread on our stomachs
until if one of us did not rise,
sleep-walk to the kitchen
and open his can of food,
he would steal under the covers,
crouch, run hard at us,
jam his head
in our armpits,
and burrow fiercely.
Probably he meant nothing by that.
Or he meant it in cat-contrary,
just as he did not intend
drawing blood the day
he bolted out the door
and was wild again
for nearly three hours.
I could not catch him
until I knelt, wormed
into the crawl-space
under a neighbor house
and lured him home
with bits of dried fish.
Or he meant exactly what he smelled,
and smelled the future
as it transmogrified out of the past,
for he is, if not an olfactory
a highly nuanced cat—
an undoer of complicated knots,
who tricks cabinets,
who lives to upend tall
glasses of Merlot.
With his whole body,
he has censored the finest passages of Moby-Dick.
He has silenced Beethoven with one paw.
He has leapt three and a half feet
from the table by the wall
and pulled down
your favorite print by Miró.
He does not know the word no.
When you asked the vet what
kind of cat it was, she went
into the next room
came back and said,
The yellow eyes, the voice,
the live spirit that plays into dead seriousness
and will not be punished into goodness,
an ancient, nameless breed—
mink he says and I answer in cat.
Even if I was not
born in a dumpster
between a moldy cabbage
and an expired loaf of bread,
I too was rescued by an extravagant woman.
Copyright © 2019 by Rodney Jones. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 3, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
I saw you as I passed last night,
Framed in a sky of gold;
And through the sun’s fast paling light
You seemed a queen of old,
Whose smile was light to all the world
Against the crowding dark.
And in my soul a song there purled—
Re-echoed by the lark.
I saw you as I passed last night,
Your tresses burnished gold,
While in your eyes a happy bright
Gleam of your friendship told.
And I went singing on my way;
On, on into the dark.
But in my heart still shone the day,
And still—still sang the lark.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 25, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
you tell the stars
don't be jealous of her light
you tell the ocean,
you call out to Olukun,
to bring her always to
for she is a holy one
this woman twirling
her emerald lariat
you tell the night
to move gently
into morning so she's
you tell the morning
to ease her into a water
fall of dreams
for she is a holy one
restringing her words
from city to city
so that we live and
breathe and smile and
breathe and love and
this Gwensister called life.
From Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums. Copyright © 1998 by Sonia Sanchez. Used with the permission of Beacon Press.