An oversized pin cushion riddled with needles
he appears in the field on the ninth of March.
Looking no worse for the wear of winter
he inches along, waddling, stopping
sniffing the first green shoots of clover
pushing up. A spiny miracle raised up
himself, he points his snout
through Lent to Easter and eats.
When a big lethargic winter fly
crawled out from under the edge of a book
I felt disgust at the sight and thought of its
death by fire or ice. Is one more merciful
than the other? I felt no mercy in my decision
to throw it out the door into the snow.
The quicker death by fire seemed too final––
a step I wasn’t ready to take.
After a moment of conscience
I opened the door and saw where it lay
unmoving. I picked it up in a napkin shroud
and laid it by the woodstove, where its legs twitched,
it righted itself, and walked around the I.C.U.
under the stove. Would it find and eat
the smaller fly walking the window pane?
My face was in my hands
not in prayer, but in my hands
my face peeled of skin
by volcanic burst of water boiling up
from a pressure canner that lacked one handle.
The hum of the water didn’t sound right
for the simple hot-water bath the recipe
called for. Too hot? Too late. The lid blew off
when the seal was opened and a geyser of burning
broke over my face, across my chest
and down my arm, my mouth an astonished O!
All in a moment, my face was in my hands
and saving face took on a different meaning.
You mix Miracle-Gro with insecticide
a peculiar pairing for the vegetable garden
where you are enemy of potato bug, scourge
of flea beetle, and crusher of tomato worm
that takes its nourishment from a nightshade
plant, deadly for others but food to grow
from worm to ultimate flight as moth, leaving
us to hope for time for a second leafing, all
the while admiring the jewel of camouflage
that is its green and luminous stock-in-trade.
While you were gone
we pillaged your provender.
Husky heads of lettuce fed us
for days on end. (Do you mind?)
We eyed the tomatoes jealously
but obviously they weren’t ready––
too pinchy-green. (You know
what I mean.) By the time they’re
ripe you may travel again. We’ll
gladly look after your place if
you let us know.
Deer have nibbled bush and tree
have ended the blooming of phlox
before it began. What next?
Will they jump the fence
of the vegetable garden to join
the porcupine’s destructive way
in this year when he descended
the oaks for a taste of something
other than acorns? In one night
the green beans gone, broccoli
Swiss chard and kale ravished,
bolted lettuce left for us.
Is there time for a second planting?
The triple threat of goldenrod
aster and ripening elderberry
signals No! But why not gamble
on a late frost? Let’s put the seed
in the ground and mark it “hope.”
The winter I had pneumonia
the body-I was teetering. Hanging
between heaven and hell,
I couldn’t move a pinkie finger.
Call Kathleen, I told my husband.
She knew the room between life
and death, and if anyone could
stay the dark angel, it was she.
Through sweat-soaked flannel
of nightgowns, pajamas, day after
day, night after night, weeks
of wild coughing, crazy to catch
some breath between spasms––
water and juice, juice and water
food out of the question, ’til
my husband baked a chocolate
cream pie, and the healing began.
Six months gone, I consigned pneu-=
monia to the rumble seat, and good
health itself took over the steering wheel.