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?

R. Charboneau

2 thoughts on “Late Summer Garden

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