POETRY

Gardening Secrets of the Dead

By

When the light pivots, hum--not so loud
the basil will know, but enough
to water it with your breath.
Gardening has nothing to do with names
like lily or daisy. It is about verbs like uproot,
traverse, hush. We can say it has aspects of memory
and prayer, but mostly it is about refraction and absence,
the dead long gone when the plant goes in. A part of the body.
Water and movement, attention and dirt.

           Once, I swam off the coast of Belize and pulled
seven local kids along in the shallow Caribbean,
their brown bodies in the blue water behind me,
the first one holding my left hand like a root,
the last one dangling his arm under the water
like a lavender twig or a flag in light wind.
A dead woman told me: Gardening,
simply, is laughing and swimming
a chorus of little brown miracles
in water so clear you can see yourself
and your own brown hands becoming clean.

Lee Herrick is the author of two books, Gardening Secrets of the Dead (WordTech Editions , 2012) and This Many Miles from Desire (WordTech Editions, 2007). His poems have appeared in many literary magazines and anthologies, including The Bloomsbury Review, ZYZZYVA, Highway 99: A Literary Journey Through California’s Great Central Valley, 2nd edition, and Indivisible: Poems of Social Justice, among others. Born in Daejeon, South and adopted at ten months old, he lives in Fresno, California and teaches at Fresno City College and in the low-residency MFA Program at Sierra Nevada College.

A dead woman told me: Gardening,
simply, is laughing and swimming
a chorus of little brown miracles
in water so clear you can see yourself
and your own brown hands becoming clean.