July 27, 2020
July 27, 2020
by Paisley Rekdal
I have been taught never to brag but now I cannot help it: I keep a beautiful garden, all abundance, indiscriminate, pulling itself from the stubborn earth: does it offend you to watch me working in it, touching my hands to the greening tips or tearing the yellow stalks back, so wild the living and the dead both snap off in my hands? The neighbor with his stuttering fingers, the neighbor with his broken love: each comes up my drive to receive his pitying, accustomed consolations, watches me work in silence awhile, rises in anger, walks back. Does it offend them to watch me not mourning with them but working fitfully, fruitlessly, working the way the bees work, which is to say by instinct alone, which looks like pleasure? I can stand for hours among the sweet narcissus, silent as a point of bone. I can wait longer than sadness. I can wait longer than your grief. It is such a small thing to be proud of, a garden. Today there were scrub jays, quail, a woodpecker knocking at the white- and-black shapes of trees, and someone’s lost rabbit scratching under the barberry: is it indiscriminate? Should it shrink back, wither, and expurgate? Should I, too, not be loved? It is only a little time, a little space. Why not watch the grasses take up their colors in a rush like a stream of kerosene being lit? If I could not have made this garden beautiful I wouldn’t understand your suffering, nor care for each the same, inflamed way. I would have to stay only like the bees, beyond consciousness, beyond self-reproach, fingers dug down hard into stone, and growing nothing. There is no end to ego, with its museum of disappointments. I want to take my neighbors into the garden and show them: Here is consolation. Here is your pity. Look how much seed it drops around the sparrows as they fight. It lives alongside their misery. It glows each evening with a violent light.
"Happiness," by Paisley Rekdal, from ANIMAL EYE by Paisley Rekdal, copyright © 2012 Paisley Rekdal. Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.