I’ve been dealing with some eldercare problems related to my 92 year-old mother today.  I found myself browsing through my poetry files. I wrote a lot of poetry when I was a teenager, and then again when I was about age 35 – 45, and just every once in awhile since then. This poem was written in my early 40s (wish I kept better date files).

I lived in an apartment then, so I did not have much access to nature. When the weather was tolerable, sometimes I escaped my four walls by driving to Hermann Park, where I liked to visit the Rose Garden. It is a beautiful place, full of many rose varieties. I liked to pick up the fallen petals and study their colors. I liked to sit on a bench there with my journal and record my thoughts. At that time I was under the influence of writer Natalie Goldberg’s book Writing Down the Bones. I attended one of her weekend writing seminars, where she encouraged us to go out to coffeehouses and other public places to write. The idea was to go with your flow, to just let your hand record your unruly, mundane or wild thoughts and observations, as well as fragments culled from the world you saw around you. Keeping your hand moving, writing in a non-judgemental way was good practice. I wrote several Rose Garden poems using that mindset. When I read this poem today, its elegiac tone matched my mood. Perhaps it was a balm for my soul….

At the Houston Rose Garden

A glossy crow
pecks through
dried brown pine needles,
his beak nasty sharp,
his eyes coal bright.

A streetside gate
looks locked
but isn’t;
many people
besides me
its chain.

A young black man
jiggles the gate
and enters.
He hurriedly walks
a small white dog.

“Not knowing the real story
about Bill,”
I overhear a woman
say to her friend,
“I wonder what
makes him tick,
but I’ve got more important
things to worry about.”

Shadows of cloud
and leaf move across
the garden grounds.
A man with a cane
takes his constitutional,
tunelessly whistling.

Try to be happy,
I tell myself;
try all the time
to find dazzle
against the abyss.

The rose petal
in my hand has grown
worn, limp, crushed.
It has veins
like skin does,
branching out
widest at the outer lip
of the petal.

The crow is gone.

– Keddy Ann Outlaw