by Kathy Hudson
Each day, early and late,
I sit on a chipped brick step,
the lichen-covered bench or chair,
surprised to be here
in this house, in this city.
Fifty years ago,
I could not have imagined it;
yet I am here today
among the peonies
my mother cut for the graduation stage,
their fragrance, elixir and balm.
They spread, a stalk at a time,
down beds where billowy boxwoods
made hiding tents for spiders, my sister and me,
later teahouses for the neighbor child,
made invisible the scroll-topped gate
and hid the straight, cement path,
a clear demarcation of rose garden
and service yard with its stucco incinerator,
iron poles and clothesline,
garage doors that fold like hands.
Around the playhouse my father built,
my mother planted ageratum and impatiens
to transform a bare, green space.
They turned iron poles to trellises for autumn clematis,
hung a swing to the garage rafters.
Later, we moved away,
my sister and I, then our parents.
The house, still ours, sat.
Porcelainberry and pokeweed overtook the garden.
After I came back, the incinerator came down,
then the iron poles.
Last dismantled was the playhouse,
its rusted roof and rotting floors.
In afternoons our parents returned to weed and prune.
We planted cherry trees to celebrate
my sister’s son and daughter, each a gift to us.
After the busy-ness of work,
free to kneel and dig in timelessness,
I add lilies, silver artemisia,
roses in the palest pink,
geraniums, not my mother’s red,
but cobalt or blush with spicy scents –
Friends bring glazed pots and birdbaths,
their lamb’s ear, ginger and lacecap hydrangeas,
my sister, brunnera and lime echinacea.
In winter my husband and I brush snow from boxwoods,
trim them for beauty and disease.
One at a time we carry out their thick, bent limbs
until borders and pairs that stood sentry
have disappeared like those who tended us.
Today new rhododendron and andromeda stretch up,
native leucothea and tiarella
white-blooming to hold the light,
welcoming new arrivals and those with us always
here, to this sanctuary and inspiration.