Friday, December 14, 2018

Tobi Alfier - Not Every Subject Is Up For Grabs

I’m sure we’ve all heard that you should never date a poet, because your life can become a poem for everyone to read about. I don’t agree. I think we all have things we don’t want to write about, or feel we shouldn’t write about, and that’s okay. My husband Jeff inspires my poetry all the time, and I write about him all the time. Many of his books have poems written to me. We’re fine with that.

Listen, Tobi
by Jeffrey Alfier

We came to watch more than trawlers
drift stony miles north of our island—
all those slow clocks of commerce.
On the ferry over, nerves ran tight
when tall waves scaled the sheerline,

lustering us cold at the railing. We laugh
at it now, in this late light dimming
out of sky, trusting night birds to circle
back and hunt low—their gothic plunge
of wings, sudden wind to lift them,

like your hair, through this paling Irish
light. So let the white scrim of gulls loiter
above us. Let them screech like Cromwell’s
ghost. We’ll learn the Gaelic word for kiss
and glare at sea and sky till they dissolve

like remote music. Here, we need the stone
junctions of cemetery walls, rutted tracks
that flank them into darkened arbors of trees.
All the wildflowers that find our fists.
All the roads our maps find no name for.

For me, there are four things I don’t write about, or rarely do. The first is if something is told to me in confidence, my lips are sealed. There is no way you can change something enough so that it’s unrecognizable. Either be a trustworthy person, or write a memoir. I would like to be trusted.

I also rarely write about my divorce (2006), work, or my health. I’ll admit it, I have a poem that’s funny as hell about my divorce. It has been published, but you’re not going to read it here. It got laughs when I read it, but it is hurtful. I don’t want to be that kind of person. Maybe if I were a standup comic I’d riff on it for a while, but I’m not. I’m a poet. And that’s a subject I don’t consider poetic. The end.

Work? In forty years I’ve written probably five poems about work. And they are very well disguised. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what “Hostage Negotiation in Negative-Land” is about, but on the whole, it’s not poetic.

You’ve heard me talk from time-to-time about walking challenges, not traveling anymore, getting inspiration from Jeff when he travels and sends me photos and texts, and so on. If it ends in “-osis”, I probably have it.  Read the fiction book If Not For This by Pete Fromm. It’s a gorgeous, gorgeous love story with an element of illness that says it more beautifully than I can ever say.

But that’s just me. I rarely write about it. I’ll tell you anything you want to know, but not in a poem. Other poets do write about health challenges as a way of exorcising them, or explaining them. Maybe while they’re writing, they’re not experiencing them. If you are a submitting poet, there are lots of anthologies looking for your work. There are lots of journals as well.

A wonderful journal to submit to is Kaleidoscope Magazine. It’s published by United Disability Services in Akron, Ohio. The magazine “creatively focuses on the experiences of disability through literature and the fine arts. Unique to the field of disability studies, this award-winning publication expresses the experience of disability from the perspective of individuals, families, friends, healthcare professionals, educators and others”.

(Under guidelines): “The material chosen for Kaleidoscope challenges and overcomes stereotypical, patronizing, and sentimental attitudes about disability. We accept the work of writers with and without disabilities; however the work of a writer without a disability must focus on some aspect of disability. The criteria for good writing apply: effective technique, thought-provoking subject matter, and in general, a mature grasp of the art of story-telling. Writers should avoid using offensive language and always put the person before the disability.”

They accept previously published work, and they pay.

I really do believe everybody has something challenging. Not everyone writes about it. If you do, and you’d like to see it in print, Kaleidoscope may be an opportunity for you.

Under the Bridge

Sometimes she doesn’t have enough skin to cover her knees.
She can’t really explain it but they nod and say
“Yes, I know”, jotting notes to remember for next time
so she doesn’t feel so alone.  They always ask about her son,
and now they will ask about her knees.
Her legs hallucinate—static charges blossom
up her feet; they jump like marionettes.
She thinks she wears the “scarlet letters”
by the way she walks, but they are only
on the inside.  No one knows.

She holds her breath in the tunnel under the covered bridge,
wishes for good fortune for those who surround her.
The bridge is long, she passes out, wakes up in an ambulance.
The nurse recognizes the pendant she is wearing
from the last time. She is identified and given an ultrasound
before fully alert. She nods and says “Oh no, not this again”.

There are berries at home, she must eat the berries.
There is a whole quart of milk, and messages to return.
The gardener waits for his check, shirt unbuttoned
to the belt, the cowboy hat shading his eyes and smile.
Mundane trivialities do not want to wait,
but the IV means she will be here for a while.

Could someone please turn up the light
and bring her some books?

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.

Friday, December 7, 2018

December 9 - Open Poetry Reading, Featuring Dave Maresh

December's featured reader is Dave Maresh. Dave is the author of Garage Band, a fun collection of short stories sure to fill your holiday spirits with joy. Dave is also the author of  A Book That Turned Up One Day, poems guaranteed to tickle your funny bone.  

We will also have 50 minutes of open reading! Come early and sign up! We ask each reader to read one short poem so everyone who wishes to participate has an opportunity. All participants in issue 24 will receive their contributor's copy at the reading. See you there!

We welcome your poems for future issues! Poets and Writers ( are helping us to sponsor the featured reader with matching funds from our wonderful audience. Your generous financial support has given us the ability to match funds through December, 2018. Thank you!


Tobi Alfier - Errors, Quirks, (and Oxford Commas)

I mentioned in my blog on editors that I was the sixth grade spelling bee champion. My husband and I still read each other’s poems before we finalize and submit them, both for edits to consider, and typos. Thank goodness we do this. I didn’t know I had no idea how to spell “Morse Code”.

I have also mentioned that I have a dear friend, Ricki Mandeville. Ricki is a beautiful poet and brilliant editor. She calls herself my son’s “Oxford Comma Mama”. I think only the two of them understand it enough to explain it, although many of us use it correctly without knowing. If you have a chance to read Ricki’s work, stop everything and read it right away at Gravel. 

Anyway, that blog post was about editors. This post is about errors. The goal is to help you write the best poems possible, and capture your readers forever.

In my opinion, spelling is a fatal error. Almost everything else can be rationalized as style. If you punctuate like hell, you should pay more attention to it, but it could also be style. If you write in vernacular— that’s style.

I have a couple of personal peeves, but would I reject a submission because of them? Not if the poems were great. It’s style.

If you use neologisms, for example a word like “whisperwinter” to describe falling snow, or use nouns as verbs or vice versa—you will find your niche with readers and editors. Some people will love you, and some won’t. Newsflash—it will be that way no matter how you write.

If you use foreign words or phrases in a poem, you may wish to include their translation at the bottom. They may not always be easy to interpret, and you don’t want it to cause your readers to give up on you. Time spent googling a phrase is time away from reading your work. You don’t ever want that to happen. The poem below, written by my husband, is not his usual subject matter. He spent a long time deciding whether or not to include a translation. He’s glad he did.

- - - -

The Partisan
Belgrade, 1944
            by Jeffrey Alfier

The soldier, too long in the wreck of years,
stands now with his arms raised,
weapon jammed, Ich gebe auf
rasping its way out of his dry throat,
meeting the tunnel of his captor’s eyes:
a young woman of indeterminate years,
chambering rounds with her small fingers.
He’s fast against the flaking cement
of the wall behind him as she pins
the wrists of his upheld hands,
her fists feeling his bloodbeat there
so she will better know the musk
of his breath, homesickness on his skin,
the soft remembered thud of her bullet.

Ich gebe auf: German: I surrender

The Partisan was previously published in CopperNickel

- - - -

If you try something special or different in your writing, and you should, at some point you’re going to make an error. Make sure you have good linebreaks and your spelling is perfect. Everything else is style, voice, or can be explained. Sometimes…often…errors make a poem the way it was supposed to be all along.

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Cholla Needles - December Issue Release!

Cover by Susan Abbott
The fine poetry & stories in issue 24 are by

Dave Maresh
Pat Anthony
R. K. Singh
Bonnie Brady
Christopher Greer
Tamara K. Adelman
Mike Green
Alan Catlin
ayaz daryl nielsen
Mitchell K. Grabois

We encourage our neighbors to buy Cholla Needles books at 
Rainbow Stew, Space Cowboy, JT Coffee, and Raven's Books. 
Support our local distributors!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Tobi Alfier - A Very Bookish Christmas

It’s A Very Bookish Christmas (Or Whatever Holiday You Celebrate)

Thanksgiving is over. The relatives have gone home. The leftovers are finished or frozen. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday are all passed. Time to start thinking about Christmas, Hanukkah, etc.

Why don’t you make this a book year? Look at your bookshelves. I’m guessing you have shelves for contributor’s copies, stacks of books you haven’t read yet all over the house, and, on the special shelves, books you love so much, you will never give them away. Even if you’ve only read them once, they are in your heart and head, and they are yours forever.
Why not share them with people who are part of your gift exchange?

Like you, I have books that mean a lot to me. And honestly? If they are poetry books, they probably cost less than the “Secret Santa” maximum you’re supposed to spend at work. Who cares if your colleagues think you’re geeky. Who cares if your gift gets stolen three times in the exchange, or doesn’t get stolen at all. It’s better than the talking bass you can hang on the wall and pretend you caught it fishing, or the gift certificate for coffee.

Let me digress for a moment and talk about Rich Soos, the incredibly generous publisher of Cholla Needles, and individual books. Rich is a big part of the literary community in Joshua Tree and beyond. He has a kind and generous spirit of which we all reap the benefits. When Rich prices a $15 book for $8 (or even less), it’s not because that book is worth less than $15. Rich has a very strong opinion that no one should ever have to choose between food and books. Yes, we can go to the library. Yes, Rich has opened his own extensive library to a wide circle of writers and friends. But we can’t give someone a library card for the Holidays, can we?

Looking at the not-so-fun business side of publishing for a moment, do you know who is “hurt” by Rich’s generous book pricing? Rich, because publishers receive royalties based on sales and revenue. God bless him. Let’s honor his spirit by getting a copy of a book that is special to us, and giving it to someone for Christmas. Your friends who receive a book you love will feel warm and special. Isn’t that what the Holidays are about?

And really, you can’t get your 5-year-old cousins martini glasses but you can get them fabulous “George and Martha” books, why not start them on the road to loving words?

When my son was little, I did read him the “George and Martha” books. They are wonderful. Then he went on to “The Chronicles of Narnia”, and all the “Eragon” books by himself (one evening after work, we drove two hours in rush hour to a book signing so he could touch Christopher Paolini’s hand. Christopher touched his hand back. Oh my God, it was like when Burt Ward shook my hand at the circus. I was speechless for at least a day). Then my son went on to Anthony Bourdain, Ruth Reichl, and every “foodie” book I had on my shelves. When he went away to school he took my copy of “Garlic and Sapphires”, one of those books I will never give away. He loves Oliver Sacks, loves Jim Harrison, and just finished “The Last Chinese Chef” at the airport. I can’t keep up with him but I don’t care. I love that he loves to read, even while carrying a huge class load at school.

Consider what a role model you can be, even to peers, and you can do it in an exciting and non-egotistical way. I saw a cousin of mine at Thanksgiving. He’s a brilliant Chiropractor and Acupuncturist. I’ve got nothing on him. But he came up to me, and thanked me for sending him a book I love, that I thought he’d love too. That made us closer, and for that I’m very thankful.

I’m not listing my favorites – you and I don’t have the same books or the same friends. I’d love it if you posted some of your “keep forever books” below. I do read your comments.

Looking at the not-so-fun business side of life for a moment, this may be the time of year when some of you do your “Spring Cleaning”, i.e. donating clothes to help with your taxes. Instead of taking your “read and done” books to a used book store (one time we took an entire carload of books in and got $17), you may wish to consider donating your books as well. Whether it’s Goodwill, Salvation Army or any donation center for homeless citizens, as long as it’s a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, it will help with your taxes and increase their libraries. Please do whatever works for you. It is not my place to give you tax advice or life advice, this is just to give you some ideas – and to give you more shelf space for contributor’s copies :-)

The Bench Outside the Thrift Store

is not for sale.  Still shiny
with shellac in some places,

worn tired in others.
It’s where he waits for Doris,

who comes in the back door
to turn the “be back clock”

around to “open” and to smile
the beacon of a thousand

lighthouses for those lost at sea.
She lets him into the warmth

to forage for just one shirt,
the perfect shade of bluish-gray.

Today he sees his daughter
and he wants a color to mirror

her eyes perfectly.  She will
be pleased at her importance

to a man who some days
can only watch the clock,

think about where he’d gone lost,
and how he can now see the sky.

Previously published in Steel Toe Review

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

December 1 - Meet Your Local Writers!

Book signings, open readings, come and talk, buy books by fourteen local authors, and enjoy the weather with like-minded friends. 

Local novels, short story collections, art books & poetry will all be available. Buy Holiday gifts for your friends who "have everything" =:-) 

We plan to have open readings all day - anyone can "get in line" and read. Bring your best poem or story to share. No microphones, so prepare to be natural. 

The event is free, come for 10 minutes, or the full time. This is our final Meet Your Local Author event for 2018. Come join the fun!!! 

Our next event is an open reading on December 9 at Space Cowboy Books from 3-5. Our featured writer on December 9 is Dave Maresh, who has a book of poetry, and a book of short stories available. Watch for details next week. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Planning ahead for 2019. . .

Your board members are coming up with many ideas to "pepper the world with poetry in the public" in 2019. We set up a fundraiser to gather seed funds for some of these projects. You are also welcome to share your ideas and dreams. Some ideas already "in the pepper pot" - a podcast of a poem by a local writer for each day during National Poetry Month, a poetry poster by a local writer placed in select public places (restaurants, bookstores) for a month, a special youth edition of cholla needles, writing workshops conducted locally to help new writers to flourish and grow, with dreams being added as I type. Click here to contribute to this worthy cause.  

Board members for 2019:

Greg Gilbert - Supervisor
Jean-Paul L. Garnier - President
Tobi Alfier - Vice-President
Lisa Mednick Powell - Secretary
Rich Soos - Treasurer

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Cholla Needles "spotted" in the community

From the Hi-Desert Star. 
Thanks to Kurt Schauppner for covering the event 
& Jean-Paul L. Garnier for finding the newspaper clipping =:-)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Tobi Alfier - Reminiscence, Recipes, and Bacon

For those of you who have housefuls of people, or who are going away for the holidays, a bonus Tuesday blog post for you.

Remember, everyone you see, everything you overhear, even the feel of prosecco bubbles up your nose can be a poem trigger.

Don’t walk around with your notebook – your family may already think you’re an odd duck – just try and remember the high points so you can include them in your poems later.

Have I written about the three Sumo Wrestlers from last week? No, but I could surely write a food poem and include the taste of turkey gravy on rice. Which could then become what they served in the Junior High cafeteria on Wednesdays. Where my mom used to pick me up on her motorcycle, and I was the first girl allowed to take drafting because I couldn’t sew.

See how it works? It’s literal. It’s narrative. But it isn’t written yet. Except it was! Taking drafting turned into:

What We Don’t Know About Jonah

Each morning Jonah packs
templates and paints in thoughtful
order in the bed of his grandfather’s
old truck, a daily memory of tough
but loving—

He drives at slow pace through
neighborhoods where curbs were
bruised by swollen waters and roughened
sticks, house numbers no longer visible,
not even in the broadest brush of sun.

For ten, fifteen, maybe twenty dollars he will
paint a numbered masterpiece on the naked
curb for residents who forget his name
the second they close the door, turning back
to lovers or laundry, whatever people
do in mid-day when they’re at home.

Jonah is an excellent draftsman.
Born to be outdoors, he had learned
a skill to serve him well, turning
in the 4x6 cards filled with alphabets
and numbers each Friday at school.
He’d practiced his lettering week
after week, the concentration blocking
out his parents shouting in the kitchen,
his little sister playing dolls by his feet
to keep her from toddling into the war zone.

Nothing as satisfying as a daily routine:
flip through the mail, unload pockets
of crumpled bills and order them
in the same careful way he packs
his paints, grab a $20, put his brushes
to soak, and head on down to Wiley’s place,
a beer always waiting, a woman
always curious and loving his paint
splattered clothes, a real artist to make
her feel beautiful after an ordinary day,
to go outside with her, watch the neighbor’s
lights coming on in the windows.

Previously published in Pushing out the Boat

Enjoy. Observe. Be safe. I hope that you, your families and friends, and all your houses and pets are safe during these horrible fires.

I hope you don’t have Brussels sprouts, and whatever green vegetable you do have has bacon in it. I hope your sweet potatoes have praline on top, and your stuffing has sausage. And I hope if you volunteered to bring cranberry sauce, you use the delicious no-cook recipe below.

I live close to the neighborhood that starts decorating for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. I thank God I don’t live in that neighborhood. If you do, enjoy. I’m going to eat my absolute favorite leftover meal in the world…a turkey sandwich on egg bread, with mayonnaise, lettuce, and a pinch of salt. And then I’m taking a nap!!

      Cranberry and Dried-Cherry Relish
      Bon Appetit November, 2001

So good – and no cooking required.  Prepare the relish at least a day ahead, and add more cardamom before serving if you’d like a stronger flavor.

Makes 2 Cups

1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries
1 C dried tart cherries (about 5 ounces)
1 C (packed) golden brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cardamom

Mix all ingredients in large bowl.  Place half of mixture in processor.  Using on/off turns, process until coarsely chopped.  Transfer to medium bowl.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.  Chill at least 1 day and up to 2 days, stirring occasionally (I put this in a glass mason jar and just turned it over a couple of times a day)

Happy Thanksgiving. Talk again in a couple of weeks. xo

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.

Friday, November 16, 2018

November 17 - Meet Your Local Authors!

Book signings, open readings, come and talk, buy books by sixteen local authors, and enjoy the weather with like-minded friends. 

Local novels, short story collections, art books & poetry will all be available. Buy Holiday gifts for your friends who "have everything" =:-) 

We plan to have open readings all day - anyone can "get in line" and read. Bring your best poem or story to share. No microphones, so prepare to be natural. 

The event is free, come for 10 minutes, or the full time. We have two more Meet Your Local Author events coming if you miss this one. Come join the fun!!! 

Tobi Alfier - Doors of Perception

When One Door Closes, Another Opens

Usually it seems we say this to a friend when a breakup happens, “don’t be sad, when one door closes, another one opens”.  I’m not that nice. I say “put his stuff out on the street with a “free” sign, and go to a spa”.

But this post isn’t about breakups, it’s about writing!

Let me digress. Years ago, I found myself at Rancho LaPuerta in Tecate, Mexico. It was, and still is, a famous “fat farm”. Passports weren’t required yet, and there was a lovely mix of guests—those who were serious, and those who were seriously on vacation. Everyone knew where the best margaritas were in town. After a pathetically healthy dinner, some of us would sneak out to Las Candelerias and drink (Oscar was the nicest waiter ever). We had the best by day, and the best by night.

I feel that same way as a writer. Mostly I am a poet. Occasionally I sneak out at night and write short fiction.

I currently have the one-time honor of stepping in to help proofread for a literary journal. They sent me eighty pages to proofread, not edit. I’m loving the task because I get to see what other writers, whose work has already been accepted, are writing, and I’m relieved to discover that my writing may not be very far off the mark.

So far I have proofed six stories. They are longer than what I write, but there are a few similarities. They have very little dialog. None of it is “he said”, “she said”. I appreciate this, because as a narrative poet, I tend to write narrative short fiction, and I hate “he said” “she said” dialog. Put it in quotes or italics, make it obvious who’s speaking first, and the rest of the conversation will follow (in my opinion).

This journal is consistent in their use of the Oxford comma. So far, most of the writers have used it anyway. I have added very few commas to their work. I use it in mine as well. (Note: Oxford commas do not appear to be universal. My
college-aged son has a number of professors who read blind. They know my son’s papers within two weeks because he is the only one who uses Garamond, and the only one who uses Oxford commas.). Everyone is different.

I usually don’t set out to write short fiction. If a poem isn’t working as free verse, I first see if it should be written in prose. I can tell very quickly by the language and length if it is not a prose poem, and then I change it to short fiction. To me it is very clear that a prose poem is not the same as a short fiction piece. This is an argument that is often “discussed”.

If you haven’t tried writing short fiction, or micro-fiction as it is sometimes called, you might try it. Sneak away sometime, order a margarita and write 750 or 1,000 words. The language doesn’t have to be as poetic, and it might give you the chance to tell that story you couldn’t figure out how to tell in a poetic way. I have only written about eight pieces of short fiction, and I am thankful they have all been published. Compared to hundreds of poems and hundreds of rejections…I may have to order another margarita!

Prose Poem:

Morning Meditation with Stone and Weather

She straightened up against the uneven and ancient stones of the wall in the narrow alley between her pensione and the harbor. The stones, bubbled with texture like yeast in bread, scratched her back in a satisfying way. To be pushed into them and kissed, this one time, would not feel as delicious as the solitary and unguarded flexing of the warp and weft of her shoulders and back. She listened to the clanking of a family meal being prepared across the way. In a language she couldn’t understand, but in smells redolent of her childhood, and her family—her chaotic little family back home in Nowhere, Arizona, that rarely sat down together over any meal, unless it was in front of a ballgame. Over it all, the perfume of the sea, darkened and angry by weather that was calling this home. Clouds overhead the color of dampened hearthstones before being warmed by morning fires. She watched them move slowly across the tiny alley sky, wondered whether they had any rain to leave behind, soft as tomorrow night’s dreams.

Previously published in Suisun Valley Review

Short Fiction:

Grandpa Salerno Wakes to the Predawn Chill of Sevilla

In another time, another life, before even the roosters were up, he was usually at the café in the butcher’s district, a glass of coffee in one hand, churro in the other and a song on his lips. But today, as the sky begins to pinken, he takes a swig of grappa and goes to the river, to say good morning and pay his respects to his departed wife. She left such a short time ago the sheets and pillow still hold her shadow, the cupboard holds her scent on the clothes he can’t bear to give away. He misses her deeply. He will miss her every day.

People greet him as he walks, a chorus of “hello”, “good morning”, “ciao” and “buongiorno”. Most don’t even know his name. They call him Grandpa Salerno because a long time ago he came from Salerno. He isn’t sure they would call him Antoni even if he asked, but he doesn’t mind.

Guadalquivir River Seville
He makes it to the park by the river with his coffee, black, and his egg sandwich, well done, watches the sky and city come to life. He watches Matteo, his friend and fellow émigré, who waves to him from across the river with his coffee, cream and sugar, and egg sandwich, runny. They both came to this country full of promises and dreams. They both ended up happy for a long time, family and years crinkling their eyes with laughter and now, sadness also.

Antoni loves the chill, even as thoughts of his beloved in the lightenng sky warm his shoulders the way she rubbed them warm after a hard day at work. He loves the smells, he loves the people. He loves this adopted city, and wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Today is planting day. Under Antoni’s watchful eyes, three of his four sons, the fourth far away in Trenton, New Jersey, were coming to plant his garden. For the raised bed already built there were lettuces and peas, carrots and herbs. Rolls of copper tape would line the wood to keep out snails.  The rest of the small garden would be protected from animals by posts, wire and a gate, to be built by the sons. There they would plant corn and broccoli. Trellises for cucumbers would line one side, tomato cages the opposite. Plants, fertilizer, shovels and bags of cork for lining a path were all delivered yesterday. They all knew to bring their own gloves.

Also delivered were four bushes—roses created in 1952. Antoni and his wife Rose married in 1952. He ordered four to represent each son. This will be a garden of the heart as well as the body, and after he works his sons to back-breaking exhaustion they will feast on wine and tapas, congratulating each other and deciding who will come each Saturday to visit their father and weed.

It was a long day followed by a late lunch, the sons returning home to their wives, their gardens. Antoni, in an old chair dragged from the kitchen, toasted the last bit of color from the sky with one last glass of wine, whispered to his Rose in a mix of Italian, Spanish and English. And then, walking a little stooped from age and the surprise of being alone, he retired, an early night by anyone’s standards, to dream the plants growing and to get ready for the sunrise tomorrow.

Previously published in Revolution John

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.