By Jill Bialosky, from the Spring 2014 issue of The Kenyon Review. Bialosky’s fourth poetry collection, The Players, will be published next year by Knopf.
We were in the twilight of our lives.
Our labor suddenly realized in the crowns
of marigolds, blue eyes of the hydrangeas,
smell of lavender, and late bloom of the hosta’s
erect purple flower with its marvel of thick green leaves.
Each year we trimmed back and the garden grew
more lustrous and untamable as if the eternal woods
and animals asleep at night in its beds were claiming it back.
The water in the pool shimmered an icy Tuscan blue.
When we arrived we swam
until the stress from the grueling
life in the city released our bodies.
Later we sat under the umbrella and watched a garden snake
slip into the water, careful not to startle
its fight-or-flight response. Its barbed-wire
coil. Comet of danger, serpent of water.
How long we had thwarted the venom of its secrets,
its lures and seductions.
It swam by arching then releasing
its slithery mercurial form.
Through the lanky trees we heard the excited cries
of the neighbor’s children, ours, the boy of our late youth,
of our happiness and our struggles, the boy who made us whole
and broken, was in his room perhaps dreaming
of a girl and sleeping the long and restful sleep of a teenager.
It was a miracle, our ignorance. It was grace
incarnate, how we never knew.