about the flowers at the base of a flagpole, and I discover
I understand delphiniums, how they need cool summer nights
and long-lit days to thrive; that I can distinguish salvia
from lavender whose silvery leaves exude the same scent
in Vermont as California, France, or Bulgaria; that I know
Lady’s Mantle holds rain drops whole; violets and pansies
are edible and the more you eat, the more they bloom; opiates
have been bred out of today’s poppies but morning glory seeds still
carry LSD (beware—they make you vomit); wisteria can twine
around and pull apart a house and bittersweet kills everything it touches;
that the easiest flower is the daffodil—as long as your winter is cold,
you’re good for years of blatant cheer to thwart the gloomiest brooders
after a siege of icicles (remember Dr. Zhivago?); that purple bugleweed
can replace a lawn and foster bees; iris, prone to rhizome rot and borers,
like dry soil; daylilies, if you divide them every leap year, will never
let you down; that your best garden may come from plants that plant
themselves—volunteers!—columbine, buttercups, bachelor buttons,
coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, spurge— for a weed is only named
as such if you don’t like it—and vegetables, too; not just the brazen
orange of squash but nubbly white knots of peas and beans, tiny
yellow stars of tomatoes, white stars of potatoes—a double sustenance;
that peony corms must be planted shoot-side up (tough to determine
which side that is) because they won’t turn themselves around
like other bulbs, but if you get it right and never fertilize with manure,
they’ll outlive you with fragrant grace each June; and that I learned
everything I know about gardens from a mother who loved hers
first and best, always upset by my uselessness.

First published in Valparaiso Poetry Review