The Fieldstone Review

Hewn

1.

She was a dead-header that believed
in orderly beds a woman that wore crisp denim shirts
on cool days and kept her white hair
bobbed
and this was her territory: when a squirrel
wouldn’t stay away from her birdfeeder she uprooted it
turned the page in the catalogue
and planted things that drew
butterflies instead

He was a pruner
that otherwise stayed out
of the garden
a man that semi-annually grasped
the telescoping arms of his tool
the clean edges
of cut

2.

He was a lawn-mower who insisted
on planting a tree for his first grandchild
in his wife's garden
and heaving the root ball into the hole
alone his wife
watching from the living room
window his legs bowing
around the weight (the nap of the burlap
like the first hair)
and panting feet planted
on either side of the hole
he knew this was as close
as he'd ever got
to birth

The first year the tree flourished
the way the tumour in the brain
of the over-the-fence neighbour flourished
and when the leaves
that reached impertinent for his sunlight
all the unfurling fingers
pointed at him
the overhanging anger of trespass
made him wrench off
a branch the way you might
wrench off
an arm

The next week his wife tsked
on the bedroom phone: he's sick! as she reported on the rough edges
of the torn thing tossed over the fence
into her yard
said but you know how your father is
he won't do anything

then went quiet

3.

She was a mulch-digger familiar with orderly
disruption of pest life cycles her notebook full
of dilutions applications doses all in her careful hand
but when she came upon her husband still
watching a raccoon fish in her koi pond
swiping at the water
brushing aside
her special-order plants for the fish
they carefully sifted into tanks in the fall
so they wouldn’t freeze (the fish
swarming the murky light
of the basement all winter)
she watched him watch
then grabbed a rake
and took
a swipe

4.

He was a kitchen-scrap composter who came out
one morning with his margarine tub
full of rot
to find the three-year old tree stripped
the winter-sick lips of deer
shredding the limbs bare
all for the glazed shoots
the goddamn
tenderness
of leaves
springing from bud
after the long drift of winter
after that it was blight
and apples worm-eaten
even on the highest branches

5.

He was a pruner
and by year five it was clear: the tree hadn’t staked
out a domain wouldn’t branch out
into this sky these breezes: it's sick... she noted
every day for a month
you’ve got to do something
and when she finally sent him out
with the axe he stood under the spindly branches
dreaded the bleeding seep
of cut

She was a ruthless dibber
but she didn’t stand by
the window when he took down the tree
he’d wanted his clean edges his crisp provocateur
but instead he had to pace off
the square footage of their house
find her
on the floor
of their bedroom
and he stood over her clumsy
with sawdust and soil him scared and her
so still

And when she pulled him down
pressed her wet cheeks her creased forehead
to his he buried his nose in her
but had to ask: are you sick?
is there anything I can do?

she looked wild at him then sat up
scowling at the upturned tip of his pink golf shirt
the collar about to lick his ear lobe
or speak
and was about to assume the day push off into the afternoon
errands the suckers even now
lining up to be pinched off
until he squeezed her again
felt her steel her moment
of resistance
before she laid back into the dust
aloft in the moving patch
of sunlight