Late Summer Garden (Redux)

I’ve been working on editing a lot of my poems recently, and I found this to be one of the most satisfying revisions I’ve done. You can read the original here, which I posted awhile back. Sometimes I find editing to be even more rewarding than new writing. The real thing is sometimes hiding in what we thought we were trying to say, and I enjoy finding that real thing.


Late Summer Garden


The garden unwatered in summer

was like the long ash unraveling

my unsmoked cigarette, a scaffolding

of tubers that would crumble at my

slightest awareness. I neglected them,

and they repaid my guilt with aversion

the way an old lover might turn away

ashamed and conscious that I’d left

yet both of us looking to reconcile.


So I uncoiled the long-sleeping hose

the spigot twisting silver webs

like ribbons around a maypole

and found a chair for sitting awhile

Neither of us erred with sentiment

humiliated by the affair as we were

What could be shared but this alone?

And how easy was it to water now

returned from my graveyard shift

eyes blighted with dread insomnia?

Who’s sorry who’s not also hurt?

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 and suffocate its bed.


And suddenly a bee come from nowhere

alighted from bud to phantom bud

as if to see what help the water gave

if there was something left to salvage

The last bee when others moved on

who waited for my watering to come

But why abandon it like I did

why, if its colorful pageantry

each homecoming was like some

victory bouquet—and just for water

that was all it asked of me—

why did I quit caring for it?

R. Charboneau

Late Summer Garden


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.

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