Poison ivy vines
creep up the limbs
of the dying oak tree,
claim the walls
the floor.
A loose shutter
groans and creaks
in the autumn breeze,
a hawk calls.
Sunlight barely dazzles
the fallen glass shards 
from a broken window,
the once-firm foothold
hangs on a rusty nail.

At the base of the tree
a deflated kickball speaks
of childhood memories made
left behind.

Only the earth really knows
how to move on
how to create 
the most
perfect circle.


My mother slips her hands into gardening
Gloves bought at the dollar store downtown,
Pulls weeds from her vegetable garden
In the far corner of the back yard.

She plucks tomatoes from the vines
To fill her wicker basket, walks past
Repurposed pickle jars of black tea brewing
In the sun, comes into the house.

The tomatoes, smaller than the ones we get
At the market, she lifts from the basket
And sets on the window sill,
Cracked white paint baring old wood.

Making dinner, my mother asks me
To pick a tomato for the salad,
So I choose and hand her one:
Green, lumpy, hard.

Her brow wrinkles, and she turns away.
She chops onions, cucumbers, peppers.
I hold the tomato, the one I chose.
A fly buzzes near the window screen.

From the ledge, she takes another tomato:
Red, round, firm. Her knife
Slices through flesh, the juice bleeds
Onto the wood cutting board.

Adding the chopped tomato to the salad,
She wipes her hands on a graying
Kitchen towel, takes the green tomato
From my hands, cuts and serves it

Onto her own plate.


Tomorrow I will pull winter-dead dahlias
   from the backyard flower beds
   stuff dry heads and frostbitten stems
   into brown paper lawn bags
   for the city to collect and dump.

Tomorrow I will rake leaves that have fallen
   from my next-door neighbor’s oak tree
   steady myself on a telescoping ladder
   pull fly-aways out of the gutters.

Tomorrow I will go over to Gray’s Florist
   put in my annual order for two grave blankets
   that I will stake to the cold hard earth
   over my resting parents, both gone too soon.

Tomorrow I will make that appointment
   for the radiologist to image
   the newest lump in my breast
   recite the group number on my Aetna card
   to a salty receptionist.

Tomorrow I will drive into town
   sit with an insurance broker
   try to decide how much this life is worth
   what premium I’m willing to pay.

But today, I’m going to make us coffee
   fresh grinds aromatic and dark
      later we’ll head to Duke Farms
         stroll through acres of grass
            that is still so sharp so green

And we’ll be arrested by orchids
   in the greenhouse range
      humid heat thawing all that had been cold
         fragrant Zygopetalum pulsing the air
            a lone frog in the pond

We’ll get lost on the trails
   even though we have a map
      cattails reaching well above our heads
         and laugh

Now, curled in bed, I sling my arm
around your waist
press my face in the nook
between your shoulder blades
in the morning
you smell of new earth
and rain.

CHRISTINE TAYLOR, a multiracial English teacher and librarian, resides in her hometown Plainfield, New Jersey. She is the EIC of Kissing Dynamite: A Journal of Poetry and assistant editor at Human/Kind Journal. Christine has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and her work appears in Modern Haiku, Glass, Room, and The Rumpus, among others. She can be found at www.christinetayloronline.com.