How Poetry Differs from Gardening

The hours are never the same:
early morning, before the sun
gets too high, the gardener tills
and hoes, while the poet sleeps, probably
foraging for her lover’s shoulder,
and picking out leftover metaphors
from last night’s dreams. She will wait
until moon fall. While the gardener sleeps,
the poet plants and harvests.

Both are interested
in flowers: roses mostly
and daffodils, occasionally
the tulip or periwinkle. The poet
knows them in the familiar:
pincushion flower, lamb’s ear
and bleeding heart. The gardener
tends to instructions; full sun,
water daily, prune back
at the end of the season. She
understands pH levels and protection,
that nitrogen spends more time
in the hydrangea’s roots than oxygen
through its leaves. She knows how
to save the failing larkspur
without prayer. Wanting to be seeded
into the perennial world, the poet
seeks the counsel of tiger lilies.

Both listen for rocks
and remove them from the earth;
the gardener: against the scrape
of the shovel, for confiscation, away
from her growing garden. The poet sources
the matter-of-factness with which a stone
declares itself. She eavesdrops on the rhythm
of the far-away volcano, electrons
moving recalcitrantly around self-possessed
nucleic spheres held in slate;
the spondees of sediment pushing
against each other. The poet attends to
tales of glacial travel, to oldness.
The gardener uses pebbles for decoration,
arranging the smooth ones
around mulch to fence in the artistry
of a well-manicured space.

Having little use for weeds, the gardener
pulls their heads out and makes them
suffer in the dankness of the compost pile;
the poet remembers when she too
was ugly and unwanted, and how it feels
to be uprooted. But she will cut,
prune and sacrifice deadwood
for the living; she too fears the drought
as much as the cold and will plant
next year’s moon-warmed seeds
and then bless them with water.

How Poetry Differs from Gardening Banner

Amy Nawrocki

Amy Nawrocki

Amy Nawrocki teaches English and Creative Writing at the University of Bridgeport. She is the author of five poetry collections, including Four Blue Eggs, which was the finalist for the 2013 Homebound Publications Poetry Award.Her collection Reconnaissance was released in April 2015. In addition to poetry, she is the co-author of A History of Connecticut Wine, A History of Connecticut Food and Literary Connecticut. She lives in Hamden, Connecticut. Visit her at
Amy Nawrocki

Latest posts by Amy Nawrocki (see all)