She didn't mean to pull the flowers up—
The trowel and glove seemed to move
On their own, around the densest patches
Of poke, of burrs, of the garlic mustard
That would choke trillium in ten years.
She thought that it was the right thing
To do, to cut through the tulip stems
And mash the daffodils into their roots
Until the yellow was cut by fine clay.
She felt the gratitude of her body, that
Afternoon when the volunteers
Finally were free of the garden fence,
When they could climb her thighs to cover
Her legs on the spot.
One woman stumbles on a stone,
Her friend steadies her and they rest.
From behind my window, I watch
As they lower their noses
Into the planted rose blooms
And hold their ballooning ribs
With ancient, pained hands.
They nod and smile and nod.
The women laugh and tear as
The scents startle up deep memories
Around dark gardens and wet teeth,
Around heat and sweat and bees.
They could both die tonight,
Clutching each other as they fall,
Groaning only of pollen and petal—
A redness rooted in concrete.
Wrists as smooth stems and nails
As the thorns, they might press
Hard against each other again,
And grow into the opened ground.
Andrew C. McCall is an assistant professor of biology at Denison University (Ohio), where he takes a special interest in plants and insects. He writes poetry when he is able, and also enjoys arm wrestling, running, fiddling, and taking apart watches. contact