Garden Graves

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De Grada Raffaele 'Paesaggio'

To my surprise,

there are still three Cardinal Climbers which have bloomed in the chill of mid-October;

their regal red trumpet petals open & held high toward the sky,

they sound the smell of survival for remaining bird calls;

the sweet high pitched chirps & echoing ca-caws, the flowers which still bloom;

Cardinal Climbers, Calendula, Daisies, Cape Marigolds & Aztec Marigolds;

fill dropping temperatures with the aroma of life still blooming,

in an atmosphere of forceful winds which carry the falling toward change;

I’ve read the Aztec Marigold is called the flower of the dead,

in honor of the slaughtered Aztec People

who used to harvest these delicate & vibrantly hued sacred blooms

to adorn temples of worship;

now, it is used to decorate Mexican Graves;

I do not know much about the Ancient Aztecs, let alone my neighbors in Mexico;

but I do know death;

I know the decay of my father;

the first person who taught me how to dig a garden,

plant the seeds, water them, watch them grow;

18 years later, & I dug this garden, planted these seeds of Cardinal Climbers, Calendula, Daisies, Cape Marigolds & Aztec Marigolds, I’ve watched them grow;

I do know death, & because I know death, I know growth;

I see each day how the two are entangled together;

carried by the rustle of wind shaking leaves off tree bones;

the clicking of dried leaves skipping;

the frenetic wave of branches;

shakes awake my heart, which is equally yours;

my eyes open to the drift of clouds floating in the sea of sky like wisps of driftwood ghosts;

I contemplate the stairway to heaven Mom believes in;

I contemplate the shapes of the clouds;

I feel you kiss my cheek as the wind brushes past;

the wind grows louder, your presence grows even more ephemeral;

leaves are plucked from tree bones & spiral in the wind like confetti

celebrating the anniversary of your passing;

I do not celebrate your passing; I celebrate the realization that you are still here;

my eyes mesmerized, follow the flow of leaves, find the glow of several Forsythia sprigs still holding on to the bush branch which points up toward the sky like a gallant knight protecting this home;

protecting this sacred life; this sacred death; this sacred & ephemeral growth;

protecting the memory of my childhood garden, all that grew in that 4×4 plot of backyard; picking and planting seeds, overalls and work gloves, doing the hard work of making memories; & you, doing the hard work of making sure I knew the manifestation of a vision is a power I held in the palm of my eight-year-old hand, sharing snap peas and cucumbers with our neighbor who is now with you, pickling leftover harvest;

I’ll pickle these memories if it means I can savor them forever in the palm of my eight-year-old self’s hand;

the garden of my childhood home grew next to the Forsythia bush;

the garden of my home at 26 grows next to the Forsythia bush;

this bush, like a gallant knight, wears sprigs of armor which glow in the sunlight,

protecting the Cardinal Climbers, Calendula, Daisies, Cape Marigolds & Aztec Marigolds;

protecting the garden bed grave of fallen leaves, the antecedent of vitality for blooming to rise up toward your windblown kiss when it travels back to us in spring;

leaves and seeds scattered like celebratory confetti of your eternal arrival;

Maggie Saunders is a composition notebook poet, amateur gardener and lifetime learner who lives in Boulder. She wrote this piece in honor of the anniversary of her father’s passing, which was on Oct. 19, as well as to reflect on the closure of the growing season.