How to Garden

— Derek N. Otsuji

after Louise Glück

In your absence, the bougainvillea grows unruly, spills
            over the retaining wall’s prim ledge in a riot of burgundy.
                        The orchard’s lemon and tangerine are dusty floor lamps

whose empty sockets bear neither bulb nor light.
            And a single dandelion is the lawn’s white flag, waving
                        surrender to the coming onslaught, obliterating any last

green idea I might have had of myself as gardener
            or even keeper of a yard. From the window, I watch
                        the symphony in white weave its gauzy spell above rank grass

and your words return in all their sharpness. Idle hands,
            the devil’s workshop, the early worm. I might observe
                        that the garden toad in the hour’s penitential dew is content

to brood like a stone until the sun kicks him to the shade.
            Or that the winding brown snail arrives at his destination at last.
                        Except I know better. Come back and teach me to deadhead

the crane flowers that shrivel and brown. This garden
            you abandoned me to is a bad dream I can’t wake from, where,
                        instead of the red hibiscus, the leaf blight multiplies and blooms.

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