The garden gone unwatered in summer
was a sorry sight in my backyard,
flowers not fit for the arid basin,
weather having weathered them bitterly
left stems as brittle as dried sagebrush
preserved only by disregard,
for a glance might cleft their purgatory.
It was like the long ash unraveling
the cigarette unsmoked between my lips,
stiff until the tubers give way and tumble
at my slightest awareness, an intention
that repays so much lost time with interest,
tells us we’ve been gone, and measures time
by how strange we’re made to realize our absence.
So I neglected them and found them again
and was full of guilt because in Spring
I enjoyed them without effort and took
for granted such generous showers
that did my work and asked nothing in return.
If they looked at me now it was with
averted gaze like an old lover might
turn away, ashamed and conscious that I
had left them, it mattered not for what.
I uncoiled the hose from its hibernation
and turned the spigot, twisting silver webs
like ribbons around a maypole,
and began watering the dry garden,
and found a chair and sat there awhile
to pay the attention I had owed,
though neither of us would look directly
at the other, we were both embarrassed,
the garden ashamed of its appearance,
withered as though a wildfire had swept through
clearing the underbrush and leaving
the stymied and charred anatomies,
and myself shamed by how easy I’d forgot,
and that it was easier still, when I had,
to water it in the barely waking
morning, returning from my graveyard shift,
eyes blighted with terrible insomnia.
The hardest thing to do as I sat then
was to remember why I ever stopped.
Finding no answer, or none that would satisfy,
I saw no reason to apologize,
nor did the garden accept my water
as a kind of guerdon, but let it sit
on the topsoil until I’d finished.
A lonely bee, come from nowhere,
appeared and made his way from phantom
bud to bud as if to see what help
the water gave, if there was something left to salvage,
the last bee when the others had moved on
who waited for my watering to come.
But why, if it once gave me such joy—
its verdure and palette like a victory bouquet,
a homecoming that welcomed me each day
for my simple watering in the predawn
and sent me in its colorful pageantry
to sleep—why did I quit caring for it?