we spend pulling weeds from lemon coral we’ve coaxed along the edge
of our lawn. You make me wear a bucket hat to keep me from a sun
that has already disappeared below the treeline, and a long-sleeved orange shirt and
gloves so I look like a human
traffic cone. You tell me to keep my ass out of the road, and to stay the hell away
from the poison ivy and Virginia creeper because my skin reacts to
everything. I tell you
to stay off the stone wall above the creek where you
are pulling vines you’ll break your neck and then the image of that happening fills my
mind: you toppling
down headfirst, then unmoving and broken in the creek, and I won’t let it
go until you are back on the ground. Ok. Ok. I’ll stop. You win.
But what would you have done if I weren’t here? It is a wet heat, and my sweat-stung eyes weep with lotion, so I have to keep reminding myself to keep
my hands away from my face. But I know I’ll come in
streaked and filthy from the cheekbones down. I can’t help myself
from plunging my fingers into the ground, abandoning the hoe and trowel, digging
for the root of the crabgrass. I’m so tired
of protecting myself
from everything. 52 and double-boosted, obsessively masked and still I got sick
and its been three weeks and still I’m exhausted and
no matter how old I get a part of me is shirtless and 19, digging a flower bed into a
rich man’s perfectly manicured lawn, leaning on a shovel, thin
and glistening, burning the acne from my shoulders, until the skin peels and bubbles.
In the center of the yard
a dead Japanese Maple has stopped winding leafless, upward around its imaginary
post. I have promised you
I’d cut it down but I never find the time, only an excuse: what do we do about the stump?
Once it starts to go, a landscaper told us, snapping a brittle branch like bone, it goes.
Everything lives and dies. Even trees.
And it did. One branch failing to leaf, then another. But I can’t stop thinking
that I must be responsible somehow. The way I grieved each joint I smoked that
we tried to get pregnant. It scares me
how my hip and knees and shoulders ache these days or how long it takes for things
to heal. I can feel
the day come on when they won’t
and how the decade between us will ache
like an ocean. How a tree can go from blooming red, its canopy spreading six feet in
to barren and grey as stone and how it happened
so quickly and in slow motion right
in front of us while we watched from the window.
Joel Peckham has published seven books of poetry and nonfiction, most recently Bone Music (SFAU) and Body Memory (New Rivers). Individual poems and essays have appeared recently in or are forthcoming Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, The Sugar House Review, Cave Wall, The Beloit Poetry Journal, and The Sun. He is also co-editor of the anthology, Wild Gods: The Ecstatic in American Poetry and Prose (New Rivers).
Edward Lee is an artist and writer from Ireland. His paintings and photography have been exhibited widely, while his poetry, short stories, non-fiction have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen and Smiths Knoll. He is currently working on two photography collections: Lying Down With The Dead and There Is A Beauty In Broken Things. He also makes noise music under the names Ayahuasca Collective, Orson Carroll, Lego Figures Fighting, and Pale Blond Boy.