The Fact of the Garden

By Minnie Bruce Pratt b. 1946 Minnie Bruce Pratt
With this rain I am satisfied we will be together
in the spring. Seeds of water on my window glass,
transparent sprouts and rootlets. In your backyard
steady rain through the heavy dirt we dug in,
our shovels excavating some history of the tiny garden.

Our blades cut through the design of a previous digger:
rotting boards, rocks, earthworms big as young snakes;
a tarnished spoon, pink champagne foil from a party;
a palmful of blue feathers from a dead jay.

We dug and planted. We intend to have a history here
behind this rented house. Despite the owner there is a secret
between us and the ground. In the wet dirt, our fleshy bulbs
and the pink cloves of garlic are making nests of roots.
The fact of the garden has satisfied me all morning:
that we worked side by side, your name round
when I spoke it: that my fingers worked in the dirt like rain,
the ground like a made bed with its mulch of leaves,
orderly, full of possibilities, acts of love
not yet performed.
                            Now the water’s slap on my window
has made me think of something else, suddenly,
what I don’t want to, the way I wake up in the night,
think I’ve heard a gun shot.
                                           The memory, news story
you told me a week ago: the farmers south,
far south, El Salvador, afraid to go into their fields.
What does their dirt look like? I don’t know.
Instead I see that some thing is being planted:
U.S. soldiers watching as others bury a dead
hand, arm, head, torso.
                                    To be afraid
to put your hand into the dirt. To be afraid to go
look at your ground: that it has been cut like skin,
will bulge out like cut muscle: that on a fair day
there will be subterranean thunder, then a loud, continuous
hiss of blood.
                      I wish I could see only the flowering
bulbs voluptuous in the spring.
                                                But what is planted is
what comes. In the fall, plant stones: in the winter,
the ground gapes with stones like teeth.

I hold to the plan we thought of: small: full of
possibilities against despair:
                                              us handing out
sheets of paper, thousands, the list of crimes:
sharp thin papers delving up something in people
in parking lots, shopping malls.
                                                 What will come of this?
Perhaps people to stand with us outside the buildings,
to say again: Not in my name. Words adamant as rock,
and actions, here, in the coldest months, before
soldiers move again in the fields to the south.

Minnie Bruce Pratt, “The Fact of the Garden” from The Dirt She Ate: New and Selected Poems (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Copyright © 2003 by Minnie Bruce Pratt. Used with the permission of the author.

Source: The Dirt She Ate: Selected and New Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003)

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Poet Minnie Bruce Pratt b. 1946

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Nature, War & Conflict, Trees & Flowers, Social Commentaries, Gardening, Activities

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Minnie Bruce  Pratt

Biography

Minnie Bruce Pratt is recognized as an eminent poet in the United States. In addition to receiving acclaim for her verse, Pratt is acknowledged as an essayist, activist, lesbian-feminist, and educator. By chronicling her existence in poetry and prose, Pratt has explored themes reflecting the particularities of her life. She has surveyed her Southern, middle-class upbringing, her ten-year marriage and strained divorce, her battle . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, War & Conflict, Trees & Flowers, Social Commentaries, Gardening, Activities

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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