We woke to too-humid air
in a too-warm bed, peeled
sweaty pajamas from our limbs.
Into a bright summer morning we moved,
our dogs between us, tongues lolling.

We squinted, spoke of your father’s frailty.
How did his vital signs stay so strong
while everything else failed?

Later we met in the garden by the random young spruce
that threatened our nurtured monarda, milkweed, meadow sage.
You untangled the chain saw’s orange power cord,
found goggles to shield your eyes.

It took only ten minutes to put the spruce to death.

You cut off its meagre arms, dismembered the trunk.
I cleared the remains from the garden,
hid the brokenness in the yard waste bin.

Later still, as the garbage truck came by to remove
the detritus, we packed our bags for our last visit
to your father. Please, we said, let him open his eyes,
know we love him.

In the evening, you stood at his bed.
His body, you said, was too thin. His breath too ragged.
Yet his hand lightly held yours

and that was enough.


 Kathleen says:

My poems are often grounded in Minnesota, in trees and water (including the frozen state) and rich soil. It’s taken me until the last few years to realize that my roots here are undeniable, that I have no intention of leaving this place that has nurtured me and my family, formed my politics and my appreciation for nature. When I was younger, I thought I would move to New York City or San Francisco or some other large city that seem appropriately exciting. I was wrong. Here I am, living not very far from where I grew up, and I appreciate this place more every day.

That said, my poem Leaving the Garden is really about roots. My husband Mick and I are very connected to our gardens, which has been a constant theme in our marriage. Mick’s father died a couple of summers ago. Mick and his dad did some gardening work together when Mick was a kid. I tend to think of these things in the larger cosmic connections as well, so take from that what you will when you read the poem. This was clearly a poem that I could not have written well the summer my father-in-law passed, so it had a good long simmer.

The other two poems link an emotional state with the feel of the season. I love Minnesota’s seasons, especially the turning inward that happens during the winter.

Come visit my blog, One Minnesota Writer, for pieces of creative nonfiction, writing prompts, and occasional photos that I hope will inspire you. I also have an up-to-date list of my publications there. And I run a photo blog on Tumblr called One MN Writer in Pictures.

I have two poems in the Autumn 2014 issue of The Linnet’s Wings.