The Dead Send Their Gardener

By Leslie Adrienne Miller b. 1956
He arrives in the courtyard with two cartons
of juice, each of which he’ll tip and drain
at one go in the heat, and a sack of food
for the roses. He looms over his tools,
blond and dusty as a stalk of ripe wheat,
surely someone’s prized lover. Centuries
bask among his hybrid teas, and he shakes
his capable handfuls of food into their beds
until nothing but roses nose the blues between lake
and garden, lake and sky, the lapse of lawn
where a party could be if those who lived here once
returned to pour the wine. She’d be the sort
to tuck a bud behind her ear, and he to catch
one in his teeth. But alas, we’re guests
of the present, expectant and sultry; all
graciousness is fled, and rain fills the spent
blooms, tumbles their tops, weighted with ruffles
and shocks of pink. The gardener too disappears
with his breeches the color of mustard and cinched
with a string, gone back into the pages of Hardy
or Lawrence. Perhaps, he’ll appear again Tuesday next,
but he won’t look any of us living in the eye.

Leslie Adrienne Miller, “The Dead Send Their Gardener” from The Resurrection Trade. Copyright © 2007 by Leslie Adrienne Miller. Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press,

Source: The Resurrection Trade (Graywolf Press, 2007)

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Poet Leslie Adrienne Miller b. 1956

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Living, Death, Activities, Gardening, Nature, Trees & Flowers

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Leslie Adrienne Miller


Leslie Adrienne Miller is the author of several collections of poetry, including Yesterday Had a Man In It (1998), Eat Quite Everything You See (2002), and The Resurrection Trade (2007). Miller earned her BA in English from Stephens College in Missouri and earned her MA in English from the University of Missouri. Miller holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Death, Activities, Gardening, Nature, Trees & Flowers

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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