i have met death, and she is a gardener

i have met death, and she is a gardener

i have met death, and she is a gardener 1920 1751 Shelbi Church

my partner and i dip our words into a lit flame,
fling them across the room soaked deep-blue
with nighttime.

hours later, the apartments
across the street burn down;
smoke chokes a starless sky.

our downstairs neighbor overdoses on sunday
and it’s four days before his dog’s starving cries
break the threshold of inattention.

the anniversary of my uncle’s electrocution
passes—april 29, 2005—quietly
with his family’s last four heads in a solemn nod.

this year, i swear, will be the year i learn
how to prick my finger and put the needle
back. how to tell the storm thank you
as if it knows to stop lighting just short
of gratitude.

getting older means i now know loss
is not the shoreline retreating into
the heaviness of water, but the water
itself. so dense with memory, so terribly cursed

with loneliness.

death rakes my front yard, polishes
the windows, plants peonies and
chrysanthemums in the flower bed.

she reaches through an open kitchen window.
first, the hand. then, the body.
sneaking in, cluster of static silence
against white linoleum, casting anti-light.

first, the blur of what grief could be—
then the swift cut of what never will.


Header photo by J. Dionne.

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  • There is an ineffable beauty to how you’ve written about life’s tragedies and their inherent connection with death. I wish I could better say how reading this piece has impacted me. Truly incredible. Thank you for sharing.

  • I love this.

  • Shelbi, thank you for your vulnerability. While your work speaks of tragedies specific to you, they are ‘on offer’ for all of us – for each of us to interact with and insert our own muck for the gardener’s tools. Super powerful, and the line about being ‘the water itself’ reminds me of the reminder for the river to not be frightened as it flows out into the sea because it is not losing itself but becoming what it has always been but just didn’t yet know it? Thank you.

    ps. Love that my shot has the honored task of representing the texture of your beautiful piece! Super grateful!

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