So first thing after they moved in
the neighbors dug up Ruth’s old garden,
a front-yard oddity that had appeared —
shaggy, extravagant, sprawling — wherever
her springtime sweat cast its charms.
The new people pulled out
her spindly jungle of asparagus; tore up
the nasturtium border whose sensuous petals,
like mangoes, you could pluck and eat;
they hacked down six-foot sunflowers;
mowed over silky native grasses that flowed
on breezy days like a woman’s hair.
The little paw-paw tree they decided to keep.
They mowed around it.
Grinning and waving at us as we strolled by,
they spent a hot September weekend
digging and seeding, laying straw,
staking off squares of flat, potential decency.
The straw muddied, winds came,
snow fell then melted, the weather warmed,
and Ruth’s earth took its revenge:
A hundred tulips shot up
in the feeble spring lawn,
raising first their cocked leaves,
then their green, defiant heads.
(c) 2008 Debra Rienstra