Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My hands still smell like soil

by Erin Tuttle

My hands still smell like soil
             only because today,
I planted Swiss chard
and beets
and others in the spinach family.

I scattered composites:

And I learned that longday onions
(family:  Amaryllis)
grow in cooler climates, so
if you want a Vidalia, better settle
for a Walla Walla.

Then there's Brassicaceae,
kohlrabi and kale and
Chinese cabbage.
But you wouldn't know

because you only helped me the first season,
          (back when I knew nothing)
when the landlord wouldn't let us dig, so
we gathered buckets and dresser drawers from the alleys,
filled them with soil and seeds.

The neighbor woman watched us from her window and wrote poems
because she wanted to fall in love
like us, with earth lines on her knuckles, and rain
warm and misty,
setting seeds to bed better than any fancy hose-head.

But what I had to learn (and this was harder

than remembering that tomatoes
are a member of the nightshade family, or
that a potato is a stem, or that a pumpkin handle
is called a peduncle)

            what I had to learn
was that healing hides in years
of filing the pea packets in the folder marked Fabeaceae,
and in February afternoons spent bent over 
trays of earth, breathing peat 'til I sneeze, 
feeling lonely and complete all at once.

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