Bio Note: Having taught at Lock Haven University for over 30 years, I am now entering into three-year phased retirement. I have published 13 collections of poetry, 4 children's/YA books, a collection of short stories, and an anthology (co-editor) on PA. "Snapshot" was commissioned for the 2022 St. Andrew's poetry contest "Caring for Creation."
is what we keep rereading into months, decades, the unremembered squares of years fenced between us, crabgrass, brown-edged lilacs; is what we memorize like dog-eared almanacs, or blandly hopeful seed packs flattened in bottom drawers; is what—across rusting shelves in backyard sheds— become our snippets of care and compost, stacked rectangles of warning. And yet, we make good neighbors, two yards of well- mowed yearning, tamed gardeners still coveting each other’s most unruly seasons.Copyright 2016 by Marjorie Maddox from True, False, None of the Above (Wipf and Stock, 2016) and used by permission of the author.
-after the photograph The Secret Garden by Karen Elias In the photo within the photo, the small girl waters the earth, the dirt-tinged past wedged between twigs in a garden fenced-in by stones and memory. The imaginary, the dead, the living—all crisscross like brittle vines. Who is looking out at the world now? Beyond the bright blossoms, a coffin looms small. Or is it a working well? At the edge of the yard lies the future. Gray or green? The end of the story lies in what we choose. The small child waters the earth. Is she me? Is she you? She knows nothing of coffins at the edge of the world, just keeps watering her garden, the seeds she cannot see. She believes someone else looks out for the rest of the earth, for her. She doesn’t know the dead sky has something to tell her, the fragile dome already dying the day pride and desire cracked Eden with the lie of plucked dominion. All she wants is to look out at the well at the end of her yard. There, beneath the earth, more water hides. She believes this, feeds her garden religiously. Will you tell her? Will I? Soon the coffin looms larger; the stone wall cracks. Someone is coughing. A child peers from behind a crumbling fence. Is she the new Eden, dying again? But still, there is that old photo; the small child loves her garden. Surely, she can learn to till and plant, to care for the creatures that lie beyond the boundaries of her own square of walled-in earth. Surely, she can look within, then learn to look outside her small plot. Will you teach her? Will I? A garden is a lookout for the world, the view long. What will you build? A well? A coffin? In the photo within the photo, a child waters a new old earth. Will she replenish the dried-up well, follow the wisest dead and recover Eden, detouring around all lies? Will she sense the Christ child there, digging in the garden? In the photo within the photo, the small girl waters her garden: there is no fear or drought, no contamination. Look out at the world. Look in at the sins of omission. Prophecy lies just beyond our garden walls; the now rusted nails in the coffin pollute even our wells. And yet, the small girl is listening. The dead teach us this. Return with her to Eden. Show her the earth can still bloom with God’s glory, can deconstruct the world’s coffin. The dead rise up calling for mercy. Will you listen? Will I? The earth waits impatiently. Outside/within us, the secret answer lies: Look—the Garden.
Both poem and photograph previously appeared in the anthology Caring for Creation (St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church 2022)
©2022 Marjorie Maddox
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