This morning's red sun licks dew from the hundred
California peppers that never set fruit in
my Zone-Three garden. After fifteen summers
of failure why this year do I suffer
the glut of inordinate success? They hang
in clustered pairs like newly hatched sex organs.
Doubtless this means I am approaching
the victory of poetry over death
where art wins, chaos retreats, and beauty
albeit trampled under barbarism
rises again, shiny with roses, no thorns.
No earwigs, cutworms, leaf miners either.
Mother's roses climbed the same old latticework
trellis until it shattered under their weight
and she mourned the dirtied blossoms more, I thought,
than if they'd been her children. She pulled on
goatskin gloves to deal with her arrangements
in chamberpots, pitchers, and a silver urn.
I watched, orphan at the bakeshop window.
It took all morning. Never mix species
or colors, she lectured. It cheapens them.
At the end of her long life she could reel off
the names of all the cart horses that had
trundled through her childhood, and now that I
look backward longer than forward, nothing
too small to remember, nothing too slight
to stand in awe of, her every washday
Monday baked stuffed peppers come back to me
full of the leftovers she called surprises.
— Maxine Kumin
from Bringing Together: Uncollected Early Poems 1958-1988.
© W.W. Norton
I prayed for this: a modest swatch of land
where I could garden,
an ever-flowing spring close by,
and a small patch of woods above the house.
The gods gave all I asked and more.
I pray for nothing more, but that these blessings last my life's full term.