Gardening | Ana Marika Francisco

I.

My mother calls me from another country.
She tells me that the house she moved into
is small with blue walls and a terrace that faces the street.
It is bare and easier to move around in.
She can cover the entire corridor with two strides.

I imagine a few plants in the terrace—rhododendrons,
goldenrods, carnations—in their small pots
branching out slowly,
and wanting sunlight above all things.

At night, my mother says, it is quiet. I can see her
moving around the house ghostlike:
the roots of her white,
the lines on her face almost visible.

In the past,
from inside my room,
I would hear the floorboards creak
from under her feet.
It was as if she was checking
if everything in the house was safe,
if everyone was asleep.

In truth, she was always waiting
for the sound of the tires on the gravel,
the heavy grating of the metal gate.

II.

In their separate photographs
that hang on the walls of our house,
my father is waving from a cliff, a waterfall in the background;
my mother is among her plants with the garden hose.

When my mother calls again,
she asks where my father is.
I say he is asleep, but he really is
out on a hiking trip.

Outside, on her terrace,
the carnations are growing.

III.

My mother sends a photograph of herself
in front of her house.
To her right is the terrace
overgrown with plants.
She is in a dress, smiling.

Years ago, in the garden of our old house,

she is asking me to pick up a hobby.
She is standing in the 4 o’clock sun
a spade in one hand, a terracotta pot in another.
She is telling me the local names of plants—
Champaca, Gumamela, Cadena de Amor.

She is saying that in time
I will not be afraid to burrow my hands
deep in soil,
until the smell of the earth will not leave them.

First published by the UP Quill in 2007 in Isn’t This That Universe: Sitting Amok XVI

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