Cutting the Vines

IMG_2636The porch overlooks a pink azalea
Where a brilliant red cardinal perches.
Now that we’re sheltering
we are dealing with things like this:
That the bush is being strangled.

The closer I get the worse it looks
A puzzle, a knotty mess
Not unlike my daughter’s cross-stitch
which we also tackled today
So labyrinthine we finally
cut the web of violet threads,
tied five tiny knots in the back
And she started again.

I hack first through stalks of rose and wineberry
Prickly and sharp like fishhooks
One stabs so hard it bruises.
The vines fight the bush,
but they also fight each other
Ivy choking kudzu choking privet,
Scrambling for purchase
Desperate to dominate.

I cut and thrash and wonder
What will get us first:
The pandemic that rages and swirls just beyond this bubble?
Or the tiny deer tick on my daughter’s trunk this morning?
Natural disaster? The sinkhole in the backyard.
How about hantavirus? We have mice out here, too.
A cancer, maybe already growing.

I cut and thrash and cut and thrash
And remember the message from Larry
In a dream, four days after he died.
“It’s ok,” his message said.
He didn’t mean his death,
which gutted us,
Nor the tragic illness beforehand,
That mocked his legendary lung power
And consumed his imposing frame from within.
He didn’t mean us,
grieving and grasping through a fog.

He meant, I understood,
All that is, and was, and will be.
It’s ok.

I finish for the day; it’s late March
and already 80 degrees
An hour or two is enough.
Beyond the azalea I see now
Tangles I couldn’t see before,
more than I could ever command.
Just to reach them I’ll be scratched and stabbed
Fighting for the privilege to do battle.
But for now, the azalea is free
And as the sun passes over the treetops
New pink buds unfold —
And then, too, white ones
We didn’t know were there.


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