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The first bright day has broken

the back of winter.

we rise from war

to walk across the earth

around our house

both stunned that sun can shine so brightly

after all our pain

Cautiously we inspect our joint holding.

A part of last year’s garden still stands


one tough missed okra pod clings to the vine

a parody of fruit cold-hard and swollen


one rotting shingle

is becoming loam.

I take your hand beside the compost heap

glad to be alive and still

with you

we talk of ordinary articles

with relief

while we peer upward

each half-afraid

there will be no tight buds started

on our ancient apple tree

so badly damaged by last winter’s storm


it does not pay to cherish symbols

when the substance

lies so close at hand

waiting to be held

your hand

falls off the apple bark

like casual fire along my back

my shoulders are dead leaves

waiting to be burned

to life.

The sun is watery warm

our voices

seem too loud for this small yard

too tentative for women

so in love

the siding has come loose in spots

our footsteps hold this place


as our place

our joint decisions make the possible


I do not know when

we shall laugh again

but next week

we will spade up another plot

for this spring’s seeding.

From ‘ The Black Unicorn’, 1978