archives spring 2009



In the Garden

There’s always a frisson
of sacrilege when the spade
first slices in, that dry sound,
rank smell, trespass, your blade
bisecting worms, ants, centipedes,
limestone, silt, the whole flecked earth full
of roots, nubs, corms, grains, spores, rhizomes
all waiting their turn, programmed
to begin becoming.

You get to play God.
You decide who lives, who dies,
who goes where and when.
Who gets plenty to eat and drink.
Who is good, bad, beautiful.
Who gets uprooted, dumped.

On the seventh day, you stop,
survey your work, satisfied.
You get lazy again.  In time,
you decide you don’t like
the way this one turned out—
overweening, grabbing everything for itself,
crowding others out.
Or that one’s disappointing—
never amounted to much,
always moping for sun.

So much hope each spring, forking
through white skeins of gout weed,
wresting wiry black dandelion
sinews out of the flinty clay.
So much earthwork.
And in the end, so much defeat.
They win in the end, the plants;
they bury your plans
and go their own way.



On Valentine’s, a buzz
around the flower bins in the strip mall.
Outside, icy sidewalks, grubby snow.
Young men, mostly, on their lunch-break, hover
over the roses and gerberas.
A woman carries a helium balloon,
exclaiming to her friends, glad
she’s found the right thing.
Down the aisle, an old man
hesitates, gripping his cart
with its scant gleanings of bachelor food:
one-serving canned soups, Doritos,
sliced bread.  He is unshaven,
graceless, dressed like someone
who’s never had much.
In his right hand, askew, a lone
red rose in a cellophane holder
like those ruffs they put around dogs
to keep them away
from their wounds.


North of April

the house smells of bought daffodils
grown somewhere south of here
           somewhere kinder

           I crack the bedroom window
for the first time in five months and forget
                                                                  to close it

at night           freezing           we drink
           the sweet wine of the day’s air

down the street a Muslim gives a Jew a Buddha
           from San Francisco as a medal for surviving influenza
                      and the winter            alone with two kids

tulips are thrusting up fistfuls of shoots
not green but red        like secret body parts
                      exposing themselves

a girl is rescued from death by her ponytail
           grabbed by her cousins            
after falling through thin ice               while playing

and today on the marsh a pair of sandhill cranes
with their scarlet caps and big bustles            stalking awkwardly
           stumbling when the ice gives under them
raise their heads and cuss the air
when I so much as move

it’s the first time I’ve seen wild cranes so close

I’ve only ever glimpsed them high up and far away
although I’ve always started when I’ve heard
them calling    a rusty hinge creaking
in the wind      a door long shut
           inching open  


Catherine Jagoe holds a PhD in Spanish literature from the University of Cambridge, England.  Poems from her first poetry collection, Casting Off (Parallel Press, 2007), have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac and Poetry Daily. Her work has appeared in Rattle, Kalliope, Wisconsin Academy Review, Poem, Red Wheelbarrow, Isle, Ninth Letter, and other journals. She has translated a novel from Spain, That Bringas Woman (Everyman, 1996) and another from Argentina, My Name Is Light (Bloomsbury, 2003).