Presenting “My Garden,” an original poem by Theodora Goss in celebration of National Poetry Month, acquired for Tor.com by consulting editor Ellen Datlow.
Tor.com is celebrating National Poetry Month by featuring science fiction and fantasy poetry from a variety of SFF authors. You’ll find classic works, hidden gems, and new commissions featured on the site throughout the month. Check out the Poetry Month index for more poems!
Last fall, I decided to plant my lovers.
I always plant crocuses, the wild ones, purple and yellow.
I like to see them come up, first thing in the spring, through the snow.
And then irises, with their blue throats. Daffodils, again the wild ones,
jonquils I think they’re called, yellow trumpets under the hemlocks,
and the white ones knows as Thalia. Finally tulips, that cost so much
and last only a season: deep purple Queen of the Night,
Angelique like a prom dress, Swan Wings.
But last fall, I decided to plant my lovers, thinking they would come up
during that awkward period when the tulips have faded and the lilies
have not yet bloomed. I was keeping them in the cellar,
in baskets filled with sand. This, I was told, would prevent them
from drying out or rotting. And it mostly worked:
I lost only one, whose basket had not been filled
to the top. (I ran of sand, and did not want
to make another trip to the store, a mistake I now regret.)
His nose, which was sticking out, shriveled like a lily bulb
left too long before planting.
Behind my house is a woodland, filled with oaks
that have stood for a hundred years. Light falls through their branches,
and the ground is littered with oak leaves. At its edge
grow smaller trees: aspen, birch, dogwood.
And the woodland shrubs: hawthorn, elderberry.
Through their branches grow wild roses and honeysuckle.
It’s a charming, solemn place. I planted my lovers
close to the woodland but not under the shade of the trees.
I did not want them near the house. And I thought I would see them
best from the kitchen window.
I worked the soil, turning it over once, twelve inches down.
Adding compost from the heap, turning it over again, putting my hand
into the rich, dark loam. It would be easy for my lovers
to come up from that bed. I planted all five of them.
(One, as I said, was no longer viable: I threw him
onto the compost heap to feed next year’s plantings.)
On a sunny fall day, I brought out all the baskets.
One by one, carefully, I lifted my lovers out,
dug holes twice their depth, mixed bonemeal into the soil.
I put them in their holes, heaped in the soil again,
watered them. And then waited.
It is spring. Throughout the winter, whenever I made soup
at the stove, I would look out the window toward the bare oak branches,
wondering. What would they look like when they sprouted, my lovers?
What shoots would come from them, what blossoms?
Would they have leaves like swords, like shovels?
Would they flower the first year, and if so, in what colors?
Or would I have to wait for the second year, as with certain bulbs?
Would they be perennials? I rather hope so.
It seems a waste, planting them to come up only once.
But one never knows.
Yesterday, I thought I saw the first shoot, white like a finger,
and about the length of a finger, sticking up
through the mulch. Today, I’ll move one of the benches
under the shade of the trees. I want to sit there
on fine days, listening to the wind
in the leaves, the birds in the berry bushes and briars.
Watching my garden grow.