Boston Review

Momentary Gardens


The smallest garden in history grew in the hand
of one Mrs. A from Ohio.
It was the size and shape of a pebble.
Everyone oohed, and it was clear
Mr. B was jealous.  “It’s a knock-off,” he said.
But we can’t be certain.  She had a very green thumb.


Mrs. H only planted the five-fingered flowers,
or those that were sweet to the senses:
moss phlox, herb robert, golden alexander.

Some called it kindness, some called it laziness:
Her uneven rows threaded the lawn,
giving way to mole burrow, wasp nest, sandcastle.

On her left wrist she wore a bracelet of children.
They clinked like tiny bells when she swung her shovel.
In her right hand she carried an axe.


It was hard to keep track of the names and the hybrids.
And under what conditions! Mrs. H’s face turned red
from the constant heat, and Mr. B’s hands
were burned by chemicals.  Hooligans
kept breaking the hothouse ceiling
and we had to replace it over and over.

Of course, we eventually grew tired, and left
the children in the woods at the edge of town.
We kept building fences, but they managed
to get through.  Soon, pink flowers sprang up
in all the cracks, clocking out the hours.

Finally, we had to close up shop.  The reflections
in the windows were too much to take—
faces flowered on every open space.
In the morning, nothing was left but the parade.


But we can’t be certain.  Long and small fragments
shift and collude, like the moon as it rises over the fence.
Mr. B stood open-mouthed.  Someone said, “It’s a gardenia,”
and everyone said, “Oh yes, yes.”
But then Mrs. H said, “Have we come so far,”
flipping through the album past sketches of flowers.
Clearly, the picnic was over. We were packing up
knapweed and dogbane, releasing the frittilaries
to the yard, when Mrs. A said, “In the spring,
something will come up,” and everyone nodded.   

—Claire Hero


Claire Hero’s poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Willow Springs, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of an AWP Intro Award and is a poetry editor for Pleiades.

Originally published in the April/May 2003 issue of Boston Review

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