Yard Work

We all have memorable and colorful characters in our lives.  (If you’re missing colorful characters consider moving to the deep south.)  This is an inviting poem with great images.  It also contains thoughtful observations on shame, pride, and hope.

Yard Work                                                                Kathleen Lynch

My mother prowled the yard, winding wires around bare stems

of rose bushes, attaching Woolworth’s plastic roses—

her flowered house dress puffed out full,

hair lifting like flames. I watched, embarrassed

by how tacky, how pathetic

but it had been a bad spring all around

what with Dad’s drinking and with nothing

blooming, and from where I stood

I had to admit they looked pretty. The distance

between shame and pride is so mutable we use

both words for the same thing:

She has no shame. She has no pride.

Can this be true? By my calculation over forty

thousand hours have passed since that moment

and still I see her and the bell of that dress,

not a scrim in sight, just sheets snapping

on the line behind her, weeds shivering at her ankles.

And the way she moved, the way she went at it

—a driven thing—another of the countless gestures

she would subsume in silence, a look

in the eye we all knew meant: Say nothing.

And when she sank away into the heap of mystery

books on the couch, a theater of colors in the window

behind her—the strange brilliance and juxtaposition

of fake and real—I began to believe in hope

as something that could be invented

even under dire skies, even when wind

sliced around thorns and we waited

for the phone to ring, and for spring

to become spring.


scrim: (noun) theatrical curtain


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