He knelt beside me,
rolling one from the starter tray like I would roll my comfortable thumbs
over his knees when we drank coffee
on summer mornings.
We dug in together, both smeared with the compost-stinking soil
from the plants before that had stained our jeans,
muddied our faces.
marigolds bushed—yellower than the summer squash blooms—
20 to a single plant, and their fruiting neighbors
Couldn’t even escape the rabbits.
I remember his uprooting the woody scrags
A few months later
when the flowers wrinkled into clots and dropped—
a few weeks before he left—
Tossing them behind the shed
With other remnants of once-beautiful things.
The worms churned the barren raised-bed for weeks.
Then, I saw them—green blades spearing the damp dirt—
I scraped them all from the garden.
Hurled them away.
“Not yet!” I cried after them.
But I’ve never begged something that listened.
I saw one today,
Thumb-sized, hiding under the cherry tomatoes I eventually planted
When the soil’s rawness ebbed.
It found its way to the water,
Was holding its one red bloom like an arrow
Under a new, green tomato testing its weight.
I let it be all summer.
You cannot remove something that demands to be present.
And, I imagined, it made the new tomatoes taste sweeter.