Someone posts crocuses
on Facebook and we are out
the door and across the pasture
wind be damned, sleeping
deer too who boing boing
from slough to hilltop and turn
stunned. Are we real
or some kind of nightmare?
Both I suppose. Just look
at our rubber boots. Dry
most of the way. Finally
we find a single crocus. One.
Last year. Ejected from the house
like we were seeds to be dispersed, explosive,
we drove to a park, whose
blown-in litter distracted
from the hairy flowers on hairy stems
of lilac-throated prairie crocuses. (I nearly cried.)
The far side of the park was all flooded
trails & booters but also bare
branches festooned with bittersweet
vines, the empty seed pods
a vivid orange. I felt collected, until someone
asked: “Is that the invasive kind?”
The place seemed fine
the last I looked, the snow
in the yard sinking fast
bare patches of grass showing
a tinge of green. I spend
an hour planting sweet peas
in the mud where the drift
has shrunk away. At some point
this afternoon the earth sank
a foot into a trench dug from
road to house three years ago.
Then filled. What now?
Last year, I choked on other people’s crocuses,
my shoulders up around my ears
as case counts climbed like
kudzu vines. Last spring, bedroom
communities along the Red River Valley
ring-diked as they waited for the water
to crest. This year, it’s drought,
the river’s gumbo shoulders bare
& shivery. Grassfires & variants of concern.
And crocuses? I find myself harvesting
other people’s pictures
like they were seed packets.
I strike the earth again
and again with the rake
and again until I think
my arms will break
right off and fall
in the mess of dead
borage stems. I must
pause to remove fistfuls
of clay from the tines. Plant
as soon as the ground can
be worked, the packet says.
Cover lightly with dirt.
Tomorrow, I will drag out the hose
and sit on my front steps
while it gushes
rusty water from Shoal Lake 40
all over the roots of my old elm.
I will be tempted
to drink from the cold metal hose.
I will notice that the stairs need
painting, my boots
dusty. But! Downy fiddleheads
in the garden. Merlins shrieking
About Ariel Gordon and Brenda Schmidt
Ariel Gordon (she/her) is a Winnipeg/Treaty 1-based writer, editor, and enthusiast. Her latest books are Treed: Walking in Canada’s Urban Forests (Wolsak & Wynn, 2019) and TreeTalk (At Bay Press, 2020), nominated for three Manitoba Book Awards.
Brenda Schmidt (she/her) is the author of five books of poetry and one of essays. Her work is included in The Best of the Best Canadian Poetry in English, Tenth Anniversary Edition. She now xeriscapes in extreme drought conditions in rural Saskatchewan.