Seedlings

Behind the double glass in my south-facing windows, rows of cut-down milk cartons sit in trays on folding tables, full of dirt and small green sprouts, luxuriating in the indoor warmth, encouraged by increasing hours of light, already a garden in my mind. All leg and a few leaves, they lean toward the light and I turn the trays around every day, trying to keep them straight. There are far more tomato plants coming than I can use, but I couldn’t deny every seed in a packet its chance for growth and glory. Also, I am greedy for tomatoes.

And they have good names. Is that a career path, thinking up names for new plant varieties? There is Black Pearl, a dark and early cherry tomato that begs my fingers to steal it from the vine; Supersteak, bursting out of its big red cape to leak all over the bacon and lettuce in a sandwich; Mortgage Lifter, enormous, prolific, cash crop leader; Black Krim, out of Ukraine and suited to a short growing season. An entire sonnet cycle, or maybe a biography, lurks in the pages of the Burpee catalog, with so many more that I had no room for. Pablo Neruda has already written them an ode: the tomato, he says, “sheds its own light.”

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Notes From a Transplant

I’m a poet, a painter, and a gardener. Gardeners say a weed is a right thing in a wrong place, and getting things in their right places is at the center of making a rewarding poem, a good painting, or a satisfying garden.

When I moved to Michigan from Southern California a few years ago, I was certain everything I knew about gardening would be wrong. This confidence turned out to be misplaced. It was true I would no longer be planting sweet peas in October (we had no frost most years in Pasadena), but it was not true that all gardening came to a halt with the first Michigan frost. A nursery in Ann Arbor had a sale on perennials in October and I was suspicious; but, surprise, perennials like to spend their dormant time roots down in the dirt, in Zone Six or in Zone Ten. You still have to find the ones suited to your zone, and you still have to figure out how much sun and how much water each plant needs whether your drip irrigation comes from a hose or falls out of the sky. People will still tell you the special cures they swear by, and you will still have to find out which ones work in your garden.

What poets as well as gardeners do, is dig something out of one place and use it in another. If you think carefully about what you know, it’s not ever necessary to scrap it all and start over. It’s not even possible, since past knowledge clings. Some things, maybe not the ones you thought, will be useless, but some, maybe not the ones you expected, will carry through.

So welcome to my website and my blog, a collection of work I have done and work I am doing. There may be weeds, but I hope you’ll see the beauty I find among them.