Poison ivy vines
creep up the limbs
of the dying oak tree,
claim the walls
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
Only the earth really knows
how to move on
how to create
HOW TO CHOOSE A TOMATO
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
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
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.