To My Great-Grandmother:
In case the post office is still delivering where you are
Granny, I sit in the garden reading the letter you wrote
your sister when you were the same age I am now.
Lena, I guess I’ll never get to see the orange trees in Florida. I’m too old
to travel and my eyes don’t work as well as they used to.
Now I know how you felt. But unlike you, I made it — lots of times, in fact. If I could
I’d send you pictures of the groves, verdant branches hung with glowing fruit,
and pictures of my mother, your granddaughter, living there. After she died,
I found a postcard you sent me, its one-cent stamp postmarked
at the Memphis train station on your way home. Your familiar cramped cursive
has faded with age: Cry loud if they aren’t treating you all right. I’ll come get you.
Here in my backyard, ruddy penstemons crowd purple salvia spikes
and flannel milkweed. Bees hum a song of autumn coming soon among the asters
and the daisies’ last summer snow. My dahlias explode red as your strawberry jam,
those jars you filled with sweetness and lined up on pantry shelves in pre-dawn light
before your daughter woke and fussed about you messing up her kitchen once again.
That morning you led me out the back door at sunrise. There was something
I should see. We walked together past Grandmother’s neat beds of hybrid roses
to the far back lot, to where a wire fence embraced your tangle of stems, leaves,
flowers whose names I no longer know. Granny, once when someone asked me
the time and place I felt the safest and most loved, I remembered
holding your hand beside your garden crowded as this one I sit beside today.
You pointed to a web where day’s first light split gold through hanging dew,
and at the center a fragile ladder spun by the great black-and-yellow spider
suspended there. You said Look. Look how beautiful it is.
Louise Barden is a transplanted Easterner who has recently and happily re-settled in Corvallis, Oregon. She has been a university English instructor and a marketing-advertising executive. Barden’s poetry has won awards from Calyx , the North Carolina Writers’ Network (Harperprints chapbook contest for Tea Leaves), and the Southwest Review (2017 Marr Prize finalist). Her poems have been published in Chattahoochee Review, Timberline, and others.