There — a tiny you in your best Sunday dress
standing before Mama’s bright orange beds
of unrestrained nasturtiums and marigolds tilting
in a breeze that made tall pines whisper overhead.
Sun-split days at Grandma’s, her pink and yellow
roses tended gently until buds spread
into circling layers of velvet petals to be clipped
and artfully arranged in vases beside her rose-silk couch.
The first soil of your own, perched on a country hillside
behind a tiny house, rows lush with green beans
and tomatoes, squash and strawberries, ears of corn
tasseling to sweetness in their strong tight husks.
Later, flowering hedges around a bigger house outside a city,
beds of daffodils and crocus, shady edges green with hellebores,
and hostas, Solomon’s seal. And at the center a sunny spot
of basil, cucumbers, and tomatoes golden as ripe plums.
Until a cottage surrounded by tall penstemons and daisies,
lilac bellflowers, white lilies, purple salvia, ruby roses
and a pear tree’s branches drooping with the weight of ripening
fruit, and a row of raspberry clusters glowing in the sun.
And you, bringing in bouquets of red and yellow dahlias
with buckets of pears to peel and slice and boil, calculating how many jars
it’s possible to load with jam and pickles, and asking how much more
you can still gather up before the last warm days of summer end.
Of Fog and Lions
Cold morning fog outside the window while I stand in the kitchen
making tamales. Lions sleep in a dark corner.
Outside, a blower’s roar, a lawnmower growling, no room safe
from the din or perhaps it’s only the snore of tawny bodies.
I beat the shortening, the broth, the harina; spread masa on husks;
listen to the stillness, see a grey day spread out before me, watch the lions stir.
I vacuum the floor, tidy the living room, read a book, answer a letter
until fog lifts into low clouds as lions peer out the glass.
In coat and gloves I pull grass from dark mulch where daffodils rise
to spear the sky. The lions sit nearby, surveying the garden.
Inside again, and tamales on the table, an apple crunch desert,
dishes cleared and washed. The lions pace the hall.
To bed and sleep. I walk in golden grass beside a river,
sun warm on my back, a wide plain ahead. The lions pad beside me,
softly brush my side until the sun moves west, and we turn back
to a wood house. I climb the steps. The lions push through a cat door
in the basement window, growling low, wanting to be fed.
Louise Cary Barden is a self-avowed tree-hugger who moved to Oregon from North Carolina. She has been a university English instructor and a marketing-advertising executive. Her poetry has appeared in multiple journals and has won awards from Calyx, Oregon Poetry Association, North Carolina Writers Network (chapbook) and others.