War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

gardens (from May Day)

M,

it’s snowing again. seems like a million years have passed since I sat outside. a glass of cool lemonade. the sun hot on my skin. a million years since I was counting the days for you to come to me. on leave.

and I remember after you left to go back home to her, how even the full August moon seemed so damn dark. and how one day, J dropped by to cheer me up, grabbed my hand. “come, I want to show you something,“ he said. “Afghanistan!”

he pulled me all the way down Quadra street. past the park, the horses fat and lazy, clopping tourists, just as fat and lazy, around town in landaus. down a dead end to an abandoned lot. spilling sunflowers. spilling sweet peas. long rows of green beans. squash and pumpkin plants, their leaves wide green umbrellas. pushed open a little picket gate.

“close your eyes,“ he ordered, laying big hands over my eyes. led me step by step, along flagstones to the centre of the garden. okay you can open them now. see, see, he pointed at the little shed. squat and round. the shape of an oversize mushroom. sod roof. its walls dun. handmade of mud, bits of hay. dried grass. “that’s it. that’s the colour of Afghanistan” he smiled.

J ran his fingers along the seam between roof and wall, pulled out a little chunk. dried. leftover from construction I guess. handed it to me. “something for you to put on your windowsill. something to look at. maybe think of me when I’m back in Afghanistan.“ he said.

anyway, that afternoon he helped in my garden. weedy jungle. the hummingbirds’, butterflies’ feast. J attacked a bank of morning glory. I joked, “it’s Taliban weed. a native of Afghanistan“. maybe he believed me. by 5 o’clock, when I pulled the cold beer glass from the freezer, poured him a corona, there was nothing left but dry earth, brown as sunbaked skin.

he told me about the garden you two found with the boys out on a presence patrol. Panjawai. deserted, ghost garden in a compound. roses. lavender. a pistachio tree. green. watered. the choice between clean clothes, clean faces made. plants favoured. little mud box houses telling the story of five wives. one farmer. a clutch of children. the tea kettle still hot on the pathetic fire. no one around. run to ground.

J told me that one of the young soldiers got ready to pull the pin on a grenade. “let’s dig a well for them”, he said, but you ordered him to stand down. “I’ll deal with you later.” then muttered to J, “I know he’s just a scared kid. but he’s got to learn.

J told me your men checked the place out. left everything as it was. you the last one to leave. the end of the snake’s tail, W.O., watching your boys from behind.

then J said told me he looked back just before you closed the door to the compound. saw you pick two roses. put them in your pocket quick. then you barked, “let’s go boys.“ you spread into line. left right left. eye twitch. covering arcs. infantry softly softly into the hot day.

and the two roses J saw you conceal. they were the ones M. weren’t they. you pressed between soldier note paper. your fieldbook. then later, back at KAF. mailed one home to your wife. the other to me.

and here it is mid-winter. I stare out at ice. pick up the rose dried and perfect. sweet scented still. wait to hear from you. a txt. a letter. an email. anything. each word a garden. alive. as are you. on the other side of the world. to me.

S


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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled gardens (from May Day). It was posted here on January 02, 2009.

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