More Stories From the Front

Partially as a follow-up post to last week’s dead plant subject matter, and partially as a response to the story Kelly told me while we visited at her house yesterday about her ant-invaded vegetable garden, I give you the following poem (I can say no more about it, as the wound is still too fresh):

My Lemon Tree

In the grandeur of my first very own bay window,
the empty whiteness seemed a sacrilege.
My potted houseplants, dwarfed

by the bold and sweeping space, made me feel
immature–playing house. Before the boxes
were unpacked, I rushed to the nursery

wandered the rows of ferns and philodendrons,
succulents and lilies, but none
seemed daring or delicate enough

to fill the sunlit void. Overwhelmed,
desperate, I stepped into a wall of sweetness,
curling a finger at me, welcoming me,

from a miniature citrus tree in the back.
My mother had warned me–these are fussy
and attention-starved. They do better outdoors.

But filling my house with its edible smell,
and inflating the window with a vibrancy and grace,
the lemon tree soon swindled my heart.

Each day as I came home I would run to search
for baby lemons that may have turned
a more yellow shade of green in the time I’d been away.

Grow, grow, you little dears, so I may eat you soon!
But as I enacted these daily evaluations, I saw
something else growing–a darkening force,

a village of insects eating the little darlings
I was intending to eat. Oh, I researched
and toiled over concoctions of dishwashing soap and vinegar,

hoping in desperation to kill those winged beasts,
those foils of my independence. When the swarm
began to conquer the outskirts of the room,

I carried the tree down the stairs and outside,
and hosed it down with vigor: Eastlake’s Orson Welles,
drunk with power. Die, Die, you nasty drones,

so I can reclaim my rule!
I carried my shocked,
heavy tree, all but five leaves gone, up three flights
and stared at the empty cradle

where my infant lemons had slept. I had won.
I was certain. But alas, after weeks of fruitless battle,
I became less enamored with war. I was ready to surrender.

I carried my dying tree back down three flights.
Hoisted my dear child into the dumpster
and stood back to absorb the defeating sight

of my beloved, upside down. Its roots naked.
As I turned, a homeless man unzipped his pants, started
pissing against the bin.

He knew I was watching, horrified,
but kept on soiling the grave.


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