Fall 2023

YOUR PLANTER’S HANDS

By John Walser

            for Julie

Your planter’s hands
crowned with dirt
pry dry socket roots:
a bullseye of explosion:
from the front porch
flowerbox.

We have emptied
all the pots:

packed the last of the ripe
the unripe tomatoes
into our sweatshirt pockets:
piled them oddsized
on the patio table.

The hydrangeas bow
for now.

I have built a pitted fire:
my only disturbance:
my shadow:
this vine burn smoke.

After we wash and slice them:
salt and oil them:
baking sheet sizzle them:

the skins curling pink and red:
a split of juices blackening:

I will after they cool
to pulp mill them:

then freeze them:
store them
for the thrash of winter
when:

needing to taste
sunshine warm soil soak again:

needing to feel:
in the onion chop:
in the greenhouse
fresh basil added:
in these tomatoes saved:
the shortening days
lengthening:

we will thaw them:

and at the candlelight
in December kitchen table:

I will see your hands
next spring:
poking and pocking:
scooping the soil again:

to bury roots
that will dig deep
and deeper
until they tangle
into each other:
until they complicate
into a pulsing ball.

LET’S NOT RUSH

Let’s not rush
that small clump
of rhubarb leaves
on the front yard maple

although I see
individual ones
small as birthmarks
already fallen
into the thickness
of the unmowed lawn.

Let’s not say
Do you notice?
when we step
outside tonight.

Let’s not mean
that different
clarity of night sky
that early coolness
the winding down
of night bird songs
and cicadas.

Let’s build a fire
in the backyard pit
light like the painting
of grace

one that keeps
the bugs away.

Let’s praise
the thickness marvel
of still green trees
that move heavy
without shedding
in this end
of August wind.

Let’s not close
the bedroom window
until October
and even then
not all the way.

Let’s rejoice right now:
the afternoon vibraphone
heat wind sunshine blather
continuing bountiful

and swallow sparrow
lark songs speaking
tongues of long grass
the groan of tomato skins
the gnarl and crack of the ground
even after the next downpour
and the next next.


John Walser’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Spillway, Posit, Water~Stone Review, Plume and december magazine.  His manuscript Edgewood Orchard Galleries has been a finalist for the Autumn House Press Prize, the Ballard Spahr Prize and the Zone 3 Press First Book Award as well as a semifinalist for the Philip Levine Prize and the Crab Orchard Series First Book Award.  A four-time semifinalist for the Pablo Neruda Prize, John is a professor of English at Marian University and lives in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, with his wife, Julie.  

Fall 2023