In the Garden

Franco Romero

you work in an art gallery
and out back is a garden

there is an old man who owns the gallery
and he is also you

there are mice in the garden
so just make sure you wash your hands
sixteen times a day, sixteen exactly
because that’s the age she was when she died
the other you, the third you, she is

the wasp nest, she is

the agave, she is

that night in may when you were in bed
and you realized you left the hose on
so you drove back
to the gallery, to the garden
up the mountain road at 3:00 am
and the street was
still covered in christmas lights
and you opened the blue, wooden door
to the new grass covered
in a thin layer of water,
in what you should have remembered,
under the light like butter
of the porch bulbs, the puddle
leaking into the brick overlay
and you laughed to yourself
because it was so stupid
because you could have slept
through the night
if you had just stopped
to fucking think, she is

the winter with its
exhaustion, she is

my brother, I am my brother saying
hold on, I have to kill this―

a centipede that’s already dead, she is
a man you hate so much you say his name to yourself
over and over until it means nothing, she is

the lights in a dark sky that you have awaited
the lights that aren’t coming
the lights that don’t exist

and that you await still, she is

the way your ring slips off your finger
and falls below the sink
where the dust has settled
all the days since your wedding
and there, your fingers wrap around an object

and this is not your ring,
it is another ring,
from another marriage
a marriage you forgot
a marriage you dreamed
and then forgot you dreamed

and you hold it

like a road you can’t place
but remember driving on
while familiar people
sat in the back seat, she is

the marriage that never was
the house you never bought

a garden filled with women
and you wonder,
are these the women from the photos
from the back seat
from the garden, sitting with you,
with the old man

and you sit in the garden with him,
looking up at the branches of the apricot tree
and the women come into the garden
and they bring him wine and they bring him cheese
and you wonder, how is it he has only me
to share this garden with, she is

the family that comes to the gallery
a man and a woman and their child,
a little girl who doesn’t know the world is ending

and this is her because
there is nothing left to choose from
so I choose this

and they leave you
but not before the father
helps you change a tire
and they take an apple from the plate,
have a look around and say

we love it here,
this gallery, this garden,
this warm place

and then disappear
on the last day of summer
Franco Romero lives, writes and works in Santa Fe, NM with his wife and two cats. He likes Godzilla and fried rice.