Margaret A. Robinson



The Dog Days bark.  I rise from bed,
creak to the bathroom, haul on shorts.  Claude’s at
the kitchen table, front page spread flat.
He's concocted muesli.  Coffee makes my head
a trifle clearer.  Peanut butter, toasted bread,
five assorted pills.  He says, Hot.
I glance at the thermometer out
the window.  Yup.  Humidity like lead.

Screen door.  Snap. The watering pot's sclerotic,
its mouth chipped.  Bare toes enjoy the drops
that spill.  Past ferns, I top-up the bird bath,
say Hi to special pals (is this neurotic?),
a dozen fragile marigolds which flop
if I don't carry drinks along the path.


If I don't carry drinks along the path,
there won't be flowers blooming in mid August.
I can't let seedlings die.  To be honest,
a bloodline, something deep, says I have
to scatter seeds on moist spring dirt, rave
when they come up.  Weed, transplant—the list
grows long—attach the sweet peas' twist,
tie twine for cypress vines.  The garden laves

my dusty spirit.  Sitting, butt on compost,
next to trowel and bucket, I feel complete.
A wren repeats You beast you!—what a flirt.
As I water, cool mist blows, the day's roast
is postponed, decaying leaves smell meaty.
The marigolds drink deep to grace the concert.

The marigolds drink deep to grace the concert
scheduled in our home for 8/13, at three—
Cheryl (drums), nephew Toby (bass),
niece Zoe (vocals, banjo, and guitar).  Bertrand
Russell on one wall, Frederick Douglass
facing, Pat (slide guitarist) underneath.
Seats, lights, a stage—snacks to feed
the audience—each room cleansed of  dirt.

Friends and strangers climb our steps, best
seats get grabbed, old folks and kids
up front.  My stomach will do flips—keen
dread, sharp joy—while I welcome guests
who grin at dobro, cymbals, uke.  Amid
life's celebrations, a house concert's supreme.


To celebrate a house concert's supreme—
almost.  What I actually prefer
is Zoe kitchen singing, just to us, her
newest song, almost complete.  Claude beams.
This quasi-daughter's tunes can dream
him into tender places.  How did you learn
this stuff? her dad asks.   Her mom stirs,
digs for a tissue, wipes her streaming

eyes.  Note-soaked, I always have one wish—
that time would stop, hold us in its palm,
laughing, rapt.  Hope stares down loss:
melodies about a broken crystal dish,
a red coat in dreary winter, love's balm
in plastic flowers by a roadside cross.

In plastic flowers by a roadside cross
I see my parents' luck to lose no
child to war, disease, an icy road.
Dad taught us how to drive on snow, touch moss,
fry eggs, brown hash.  Mom was boss
of our behavior.  She wrote, painted, sewed
our clothes.  Dad dances in my garden rows
of painted daisies, chives.  I toss

compost on the pile because he did.
He grew the salad for my sister’s wedding,
the roses for my own.  Devotion—
that's what it's about, and care.  The kids
will focus on the music, not the setting.
I'm the aunt with flowerbed emotion.


I'm the aunt with flowerbed emotion,
excitement now at tiger lily burst,
delight at yesterday's tomato, the first.
A month ago I had a larkspur ocean
and rain-filled smoke bush puffs.  Motion
when I shook them washed me.  Some curse
invasive plants.  I don't.  Much worse
for me are slugs and deer.  Bloody notions

fill my mind—arrows, bullets, venison
stewed with onion slices, fresh picked thyme.
The oil truck crushed my lavender.  I barely
kept from punching—how could eyes be so blind?
Once I dreamed that I was purple vetch, a sign
that souls reside in phlox and such, or nearly.

Though souls reside in phlox and such, or nearly,
this sonnet crown—phew!—kicked them
off my list today.  Cough, ahem,
roots called.  I forgot. Their tone was surly.
Dressed for work and rushed, I fairly
flew, raised beds to faucet, got my hem
wet, soiled my shoes.  I craved my pen,
not seedlings, needy babies, crying daily

yet I want to grow both gifts, these lines
and heat-proof pungent stems as living art.
So.  It's scribble, water, rewrite, deadhead,
keep old seeds alive in present time,
braid sonnets which seem marigolds at heart.
The Dog Days bark.  I rise from bed.

Margaret A. Robinson teaches at Widener University.  Her poems have appeared recently in Prairie Schooner.



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