after Ed Ochester
Because Judy had given me for Christmas
a lumpen pot she’d pinched & baked
right in her kitchen, I tried my first
African Violet just after New Year’s.
The cat nosed its four furry leaves,
so I braced a two-by-six where fan belts
had hung when the place was a gas station.
First thing that spring, I dug up a fern
at Parvin’s & Billy gave me a Wandering Jew,
drilled holes in the bottoms of two #10 cans
of sauerkraut he’d rinsed & said “Bake the soil
good & you’re set.” People gave me stuff
all the time then. I started a potato in a pot
my mother’s geraniums died in, then hung
in white pots I’d eye-bolted to the ceiling
an avocado, spider plants, ivy & a yam.
Just in time, the miraculous fertilizer
came to market, so I had a jungle up there.
What sudden leaves! Then again, I burned
an unsuspecting ficus & a miniature lemon tree.
Billy & Judy taught us all, having turned
the bungalow whose windows spilled golden light
onto the asphalt behind Williams Liquors
into the Land of Cockaigne. When they threw
the windows open in spring, the rustle & rattle
of dappled leaves mingled with the blare
of Route 47, our careless chatter, & everything
I can’t remember—a faerie tune sung
all through the iron night of winter.
The Field Mice of Arneman Road
The field mice of Arneman Road filled the walls not long ago.
The poison sealed in the green pellets thinned their capillary walls
close enough to nothing the mice drowned in their own blood.
Vacuum the twenty-three pellet-piles. Scrub the floors & counters.
Blessed silence, broken by the music just one human could play.
Now the scrabbling again, as if they (field mice or gray, voles,
chipmunks, or—so the county’s rodent pamphlet claims—moles)
shove hangers along a wooden dowel then crowd around a typewriter,
jamming the keys into a clump, scratching the enamel letters.
They must be killed just as their forebears were killed: without mercy.
Long ago, hamsters had a home in the attic, snakes in the cellar.
Feral cats grew fat in that simpler time of casually fouled nests,
but the pea beans must be secured, the bins of hand-milled four,
the bricks of lard, thick-lipped jars of pickles & beets, tins of mackerel.
Blessed silence, broken by the music of one human eating.