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Oma and Opa's Garden

A poem

Published on:
November 23, 2020
Read time:
1 min.
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The spheres sang—bright
lemons and oranges, creamy
yellow pomelos, tangerines
and cumquats. We ran
from tree to tree while Birds
of Paradise looked on.
We gathered pastel eggs, joined
the chorus of colour with squeals
of laughter in our Easter best.



Even as a child, I took issue
with the forbidden fruit’s
being an apple. What could be
so tempting about so common a crop?
Oma and Opa’s garden
held no apples.



The day of Opa’s funeral, we posed
for family photos beneath the avocado trees.
Sunlight cascaded in golden shafts
down San Gabriel granite to where we stood,
bewildered in our mourners’ black.



And now, Oma and I linger over breakfast, her garden
visible through lace curtains. I am thirty-one, still
without the usual accouterments (husband, house,
children, preferably in that order). She forgets my age,
has no notion that her words are barbed. Thirty-one?
You’d better hurry; Thirty-one? When I was your age,
I had three kids toddling around. Though I try to tell her
that she presses on a deep, an open wound, she does not
know what she does. At eighty-seven, with sun spots
and wearing both her and Opa’s
wedding bands on her arthritic hands, still
she keeps the garden, to which I escape for quiet.

Lemons, oranges, avocados, pomelos still shine,
as orbs of transformed sunlight. When did love
and lack of love become so intertwined?
When did family become an echo chamber
of loneliness from which our branching paths divide?

I stand a bit straighter, but my new blouse
does not dress the wound. This garden is smaller
than I remembered. Birds of Paradise with their sharp
blue plumes tell me the way back is barred.
I do not know if I will see this garden again.

Jolene Nolte
Jolene currently lives in the loudest house on the quietest street in Vancouver, British Columbia. There, she revels in the innumerable shades of green and the fact that she does not have to choose between mountains and the ocean. She is studying theology and poetry at Regent College.

Cover image by Max

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