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Since 1996 Volume XXI



Lucille Lang Day

 
Lucille Lang Day (http://lucillelangday.com) is the author of eight poetry collections and chapbooks, including The Curvature of Blue, Wild One, and Infinities. She has also published a children’s book, Chain Letter, and a memoir, Married at Fourteen: A True Story, which received a 2013 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award.

RETURNING TO
THE BUTCHART GARDENS

 
Fifty years ago, rushing ahead of my parents
and friend Sharon, I ran down these same paths
edged with lobelias and blue poppies
on Vancouver Island. Sea hollies bobbed
like small purple pinecones on stalks, canna lilies
waved pink silks, begonias danced in several shades
of red. The Sunken Garden, once a limestone quarry,
overflowed with dahlias and hydrangeas. I’d never
been in an airplane; no one had a cell phone
or computer; no one had walked on the moon.
 
What have I done these fifty years? Fell in love
with a field of wild irises and a boy I met
at Al’s Drive-In when I was fourteen, wore
a tight, blue-satin Chinese dress to our wedding
seven months later, bore a daughter while pink
and lavender mariposa tulips opened, left
my husband, stapled lids to chicken dinner plates
for a living, missing the blue-runner violet’s
spectacular display, married the same man
again at seventeen, while slender sunflowers
nodded their yellow heads in an autumn breeze,
left him again in spring, when fire poppies ignited
the coastal range, learned to solve differential
equations and identify the parts of a flower
(pistil, stigma, style, ovary, anther, filament),
fell in love with a man who said at a party,
“You look like you want to dance,” married
him in a meadow by a redwood grove
where chickweed looked like drifts of snow,
bore another daughter, measured the electrical
potential across the membrane of an egg cell
of a mud whelk, wrote technical manuals,
left my husband, taught students to distinguish
between monocots and dicots by the veins
in their leaves, interviewed scientists, wrote about
how the universe bloomed from a single seed,
ran a health museum, wrote poems filled
with wildflowers, fell in love again, married
him under a canopy whose poles were twined
with pink, red, white and yellow roses, held
bronze urns containing my parents’ ashes
on a hillside above the bay, read Bambi, played
Candy Land, and watched Cinderella and Dumbo
with my grandchildren while seasons changed
and the rhododendrons in my front yard grew
heavy again with bell-shaped flowers.
 
Of course, Mrs. Butchart’s gardens look different
now, smaller, the roses no longer in bloom.
Arched trellises, once laden with red blossoms
hanging over the path, are wound with empty vines.
I reach the end, the Italian Garden—so genteel
with its walkways and cross-shaped central bed
of marigolds and peonies—just before the gift shop.
But I want to go back, so I run to the head
of the path and make a mad dash, sprinting now
back toward the Sunken Garden for one more look
before the delphiniums and begonias fade.
 
 
 
First published in Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down: An Anthology of Women’s Poetry (Scarlet Tanager Books, 2012), 
edited by Andrena Zawinski.

 

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