A Four Pie Poem for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2008

Photo by Aric Riley, via Wikimedia Commons

Tricia Knoll says she always plants pie pumpkins for Thanksgiving. Her delicious poem about the subject has just come out in Issue #2 of Poeming Pigeon: A Literary Journal About Poetry.

Today I’m thankful that she’s sharing it with us, too!

–Sandra Knauf

The Seeds of Thanksgiving

In May I poke eleven pie pumpkin seeds into dirt.
I bless them into a star shape in that limed bed, another year.
I wonder if I’ll be here at harvest. I haul myself up,
grab onto a rusted scaffold for the vines to climb, drape
into the summer winds, mingle with wrens. Glad to be here
as their heart leaves sway into dry Augusts
and mildew in September.

Today four pies bake in my oven, scent of sugar, cinnamon,
ginger, cloves, a pad of crust. Winter’s noon sunshine
pierces the clear vase of the last orange-blush rose above the sink,
graces my dappled pies cooling for delivery to our gathering –
four young children who, stuffed with yeasty rolls and raspberry jam,
will make room for whipped cream and pumpkin pie,
maybe only whipped cream.

On the front porch, four more pie pumpkins hunker
out of the freeze, thick of rind, slight
of seed, juicier than jack-o-lanterns.
For later, a second thanking,
glad to be here now.


Photo by Darrell Salk.

Tricia Knoll is a Portland, Oregon poet who has maintained a garden all her life, sowing the seeds of sanity. She grew up admiring her mother’s roses and vegetable garden. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener. Her chapbook Urban Wild is available from Amazon and focuses on interactions between humans and wildlife in urban habitat. Her book Ocean’s Laughter will be out from Aldrich Press in spring of 2016. The poetry in Ocean’s Laughter reflects on environmental issues related to a small town on the Oregon coast. For links to many published poems, visit website: triciaknoll.com

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Naked Tomatoes

Naked Tomatoes - Rachael Kloster (3)

Illustration by Rachael Davis.


Glass jars of home-canned tomatoes fill the cupboard over my refrigerator, ’50s icons in a 21st century kitchen. If I could, I would pull one down, unscrew the gold metal band and pop off the lid underneath to release the fresh aroma of tomato. It would be a reminder of summer’s abundance, a buoy against the ice and snow covering the ground and the downward slide of the thermometer. But I have moved out of the house while my husband and I sort our belongings. I saw no room in transient living for fragile, glass jars.

I almost skipped canning this year. The end of tomato season appeared unhurried on the horizon when tomatoes first arrived at the farmer’s market in July. And then I was lying in bed on an October Saturday, ticking off fall chores: change the storm windows, put the garden to bed, give the compost one final turn. I turned to Chris.

“We won’t miss canned tomatoes, will we?”

“It’ll be worth it in January,” he said. “I’ll work in the garden while you can the tomatoes. We’ll do the windows tomorrow.”

We drove to the market and wandered up and down rows of covered stalls in the YWCA parking lot. Bushels of canning tomatoes sat on the ground at every stand, their skins pocked by small scars and bruises. But their scent was fresh, and the autumn air was sharp and brisk. The growing length of the sun’s shadows enticed us to grab as much produce as we could. At home, vegetables flowed across the kitchen and spilled onto the floor: peppers for roasting, Roma tomatoes for drying, winter squash stacked in a corner and the canning tomatoes waiting on the floor.

The enamel canning pot dwarfed the stove and a smaller pot of boiling water beside it. I dropped several tomatoes into the smaller pot and watched as bubbles rose up out of their scars. Fishing them out with a slotted spoon, I slipped them into a bowl of ice water, shocking the tomatoes so that a gentle squeeze slid their deep red flesh out from under their skins. Juice ran down my fingers and dripped across the counter, and the pile of naked tomatoes grew.

I started canning the year Chris and I moved into our first apartment. At the time I worked as a camp director four hours north in Ely, Minnesota every summer. On days off, I borrowed the neighbor’s chocolate lab and wandered through red and white pines over glacier-carved bedrock. I picked wild berries as we went: June strawberries in the sandy soils along the road, July raspberries in a sunny patch where trees had collapsed during a storm, and August blueberries nestled between lichen on top of a rocky hill overlooking the lake. While I filled my buckets, the dog ate blueberries right off the bush. I returned to our two-room cabin with too many berries to eat. Before long the freezer was full, and it became clear the berries would never survive the drive back to the Cities in September. I borrowed canning equipment from my neighbor and learned to make jam. The cabin windows grew dense with steam while I stirred and sampled the oozing, bubbling, sugary liquids, and by the time I was done, I had over a dozen jars.

When we returned to the city, I looked around our stale apartment—built to resemble a ski chalet too far from anybody’s slopes, with faux wood paneling and white carpet—and wondered if I could live without walks through the woods. How could I rejoice in sidewalks and asphalt? Images of the root cellar in my parents’ basement, lined with jars of home-canned peaches, tomatoes, and apricots, flashed into my mind. I remembered standing in my mother’s kitchen as a young girl, watching as she carefully lowered packed jars of tomatoes into an enamel pot of boiling water, knowing they would return to the kitchen in winter as stewed tomatoes, ruining a perfectly good plate of homemade macaroni and cheese. But I had since developed a taste for tomatoes. Maybe canning was just what I needed.

This year, the enamel pot came to a boil in the tiny kitchen of our one-and-half story bungalow. Empty jars floated and bumped into each other in the surge of the water as I waited for them to become sterile, peering through the steam on the windows at Chris ripping tendrils of runaway strawberries out of the garden. He yanked with the vibrant energy we’d both had in June, when we’d confined the strawberries to one small patch so they wouldn’t take over the basil or the potatoes. It was our first summer together since we bought the house three years earlier; Chris had finally quit working at camp and joined me in the city full time. We had already started counseling, but it felt hopeful to dig in the dirt together.

I pulled a jar from the boiling water and set it on the counter, where it steamed and dried instantly. I measured a teaspoon of salt and lemon juice into the jar, and its heat released their acrid smell, an odor I have come to recognize as the arrival of fall. I quartered a skinned tomato from the pile on the cutting board and slipped the pieces into the jar, gently mashing them down to release air pockets. Amber tomato juice spilled over the sides of the jar and onto the counter. Six more jars to fill, then back into the water bath for forty-five minutes to seal the lids. Noon had come and gone, and there would be at least two more batches. Tomato pulp and seeds dotted the floor, tomato juice had dried to the counter. The weekend was already spent, and I would barely leave the kitchen.

Every year, as soon as Chris headed north in May, some part of the house demanded attention: the bathtub clogged, the garage got tagged with graffiti, or it rained so much that the lawn sprouted up like a jungle. Two passes with the reel mower resulted in nothing more than a lawn with a bad haircut.

“You just have to keep the grass short, then a reel mower works fine,” Chris told me over the phone.

“So you don’t think mowing the lawn three times a week sounds like too much?” He didn’t respond the way I wanted him to, by saying he would come home to visit more often, to mow the lawn or pick out a new mower with me.

“We’re wasting our summers. We’re young. We should be spending them on the road somewhere, traveling, doing things.”

Chris’ answer was always the same: “Next summer.”

I hung up the phone, stepped out onto the back stoop and looked over at the retired neighbor’s perfectly-manicured grass to the dandelions growing up around our compost and the long strands of grass at the base of the crab apple tree. I sighed and let my gaze wander to the vegetable garden. A small purple flower on the dark green potato plant caught my eye; it hadn’t been there the day before. And a tiny green tomato had popped up during the night, too. I rooted through the garden with the same sense of suspense I felt opening the weekly delivery of produce from the farm share I joined. What new food would I find? Over the summer, I learned that the fennel that looked like fat celery could be roasted to mute its licorice flavor, eggplant grilled in olive oil kept it from turning into a mushy mass of slime, and kale was perfect sautéed in garlic. Only okra left me bewildered.

Every time I ate, I savored the knowledge that the basil came from the backyard, the corn had come from the farm an hour away, and the bread from the farmer’s market. Each bite felt like a thread that connected me to another person or part of nature, and I grew a new sense of home. But there was one part I didn’t like: sitting down to eat at an empty table. In Chris’ absence, I made pesto, blanched green beans and oven-dried tomatoes. I slid them into the freezer so I could carry that sense of place into winter, when I could extend that thread to my husband and enfold him in the web of connections I had found.

When I lined the jars up on the counter in front of the window, sunlight streamed through the window and lit their amber juices like jewels. If all had gone well, I would begin to hear the soft pop of first one jar and then another as a vacuum formed inside, the button center of the metal lid sucking down tight as the seal formed. The sound had become a sound of satisfaction, and this year, a sound of hope. Maybe they could become more than a buoy against the fading temperatures; maybe this year they could provide a buoy for me.

My energy was fading. I had stopped tending the strawberries. Using up the food from the farm share felt like a chore. I mowed the lawn only once, in spite of the new electric mower. We had discussed my growing weariness in counseling. Had started talking about building dreams that grew beyond the edge of the yard, about actually taking the next summer off and letting someone else mow the lawn. There was still hope that in January Chris might pull a jar down from the cupboard, his pent-up energy from a day in the office spilling out into the kitchen as he bounced around making chili. We might talk about our days and wonder what to do with the coming weekend, make plans for the summer. The thread between us could hold strong.

As the seals started popping, Chris came inside and put his arms around me. “Fun!” he said, looking at the jars. We stood that way for a moment, and then he went back outside.

I hauled the enamel pot off of the stove, propped it on the edge of the kitchen sink and poured out the tarnished, pale brown water. Flecks of swirling tomato pulp streamed into the sink as steam rose up from its surface. I turned my cheek from the heat, glad that my work was done. Of the seventeen glass jars, three failed to seal. I placed them in the refrigerator, wondering what had been different about those three in particular. What had caused them to fail.

Chris stood by the stove putting leftovers into a Tupperware. It was early December, and the leaded panes of the storm window behind him and the early descent of night obscured the view of the yard. I sat, silent, at the table. Our dream of an Alaskan canoe trip, one we had actually started planning, had just been snuffed over a dinner out of a box. We were rushing to eat before a holiday party, and the words had come out of his mouth with a strong dose of disbelief, like I was crazy for thinking it could still happen: “There’s no way we’re going on a canoe trip this summer. Not with the basement renovation.”

He snapped the lid on the Tupperware and put it into the fridge. “This is life. A house and a mortgage. We can’t do it all.” I knew what he really meant. I had heard his implication the week before, from Chris and the therapist, at our final counseling session: it was time to grow up. To be content with what I had.

His logic was sound. A simple repair job had turned the basement into a major renovation. But we had never talked about it as an either-or, and I thought the basement could wait. I had inhaled sharply when the words flew out of his mouth, ready to argue. But then I thought of all the times I’d heard ‘next summer’ or ‘it just isn’t good timing,’ how we kept putting off all the dreams that mattered most to me. I knew with a sharp and painful certainty that it would always be this way. I could argue now and push for this dream, but only if I was ready to keep doing it, every year, for every dream after that. We would always be waiting, he and I. Like I had waited for him to want to come home during the summer and he now waited for me to be content. We would always be waiting to want the same thing.

It is January now. I go from work to my parents and their kitchen. I think of the tomatoes collecting dust in their cupboard and of Chris living in a house too big for one person; I hope he is taking the time to eat. I mourn the loss of those January dinners, just as I mourn the loss of my tomatoes. My parents have asked: “Why don’t you bring them here? Cook with them in our kitchen?” And I could. Instead of wondering if the future will include a place for canning, instead of debating whether preserving tomatoes is worth the effort for a pot of soup for one, I could uncoil the thread to my parents. And maybe bringing those tomatoes out of the cupboard would remind me of summer and the renewal that comes to those who have the patience to see the long winter through.

But to go back to the house that stopped feeling like mine the moment I left, to pull down the jars and pack them in a box. . . . I would feel no sense of delight. I would not think of one last stroll through the market. I would stand on a stool, hold a jar absentmindedly over the refrigerator and look out the kitchen window at the snow-covered yard. I would remember my husband clearing the garden while I covered the windows in steam, and I would marvel at how decisively the threads between us had broken.

Sometimes, the process of preserving does not work. Sometimes, the seals don’t form.


Alissa Johnson-056-small

Alissa Johnson is an editor at the Crested Butte News and an award winning writer. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Dirt Rag Magazine, and Mountain Gazette among other publications, and she’s a regular contributor to Wilderness News. Her writing has won awards from FundsforWriters and the Colorado Press Association. She holds an MFA in Creative and Professional Writing from Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) and has taught at WCSU and Western State Colorado University. She founded WritingStrides to help other writers find their voice and create meaningful stories.



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The Wandering Cat

“Apple Tree Branches” by Elizabeth Boott Duveneck, 1883, via Wikimedia Commons

The Wandering Cat

Under narrow November sun, the rock wall
of hand-piled granite river stones
surrounds a sagging herb garden
of leggy tarragon, wounded thyme,
and frost-black basil.

An orange cat leaps out,
no temper, tremor or twist –
just gone.

A white-haired woman in a blue apron,
a fisherman’s-knot wool sweater,
and gray leather gloves
kneels to plant
a lightning rosebush
to replace the crown-galled noble red,
a once-fecund rose too far gone,
sad-animal-energy end
of menses, succumbed.

She leans on the dark-green wooden gate,
breathing in her many days of growing
a homing soul that loves
the next yellow rose in the mint

and the apple fall
inside her garden wall.


Photo by Darrell Salk.

Tricia Knoll is a Portland, Oregon poet who has maintained a garden all her life, sowing the seeds of sanity. She grew up admiring her mother’s roses and vegetable garden. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener. Her chapbook Urban Wild is available from Amazon and focuses on interactions between humans and wildlife in urban habitat. Her book Ocean’s Laughter will be out from Aldrich Press in spring of 2016. The poetry in Ocean’s Laughter reflects on environmental issues related to a small town on the Oregon coast. For links to many published poems, visit website: triciaknoll.com

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Apples of Evil: Three Eerie Fruit Folktales

In the Garden of Eden, Eve offers Adam the apple. Line engraving by C. Galle after G.B. Paggi. Iconographic Collections Keywords: Johannes Carolus Avria; Cornelis Galle; Adam; Giovanni Battista Paggi; Eve

(The father of all evil apple stories?) In the Garden of Eden, Eve offers Adam the apple. Line engraving by Cornelis Galle after Giovanni Battista Paggi, via Wikimedia Commons.


For your Halloween pleasure! Sheryl is a favorite garden artist/writer/greenwoman, and friend. She’s the author of The Haunted Garden: Death and Transfiguration in the Folklore of Plants, a deliciously creepy book on plant lore. I love her paintings as well, which were featured here a couple of years ago and in my article in US Represented this summer. You can see more of her amazing work here.

And now, her eerie apple stories!

Happy Halloween!

–Sandra Knauf

* * *

A curious fact: The Latin words for “apple” and “evil” are the same: malum. This is odd, considering that the apple tree–fair of flower and of fruit–has many positive associations, and is celebrated with cheerful rhymes, stories, songs, and festivals. Nevertheless, an exploration of apples in folklore and legend does reveal a darker aspect.

It is apt that Pomona, the ancient Roman goddess of fruit, is sometimes depicted as a young woman holding an apple in one hand and a formidable-looking pruning knife or a sickle in the other. As demonstrated in the following tales, the Brothers Grimm story of Snow White, with its wicked queen who tries to kill her stepdaughter via a poisoned apple, is not the only folktale linking an apple with murder.

The Legend of Micah Rood

According to folklorist Charles Skinner, there was once a popular variety of American apple called Micah Rood, or Bloody Hearts. These apples were said to be “sweet of flavor, fragrant, handsomely red outside, and while most of the flesh is white, there is at the core a red spot that represents human blood.” A story was traced back to Franklin, Connecticut, where a farmer named Micah Rood lived in the late 1700s. In those times much commerce was done with itinerant peddlers, and these early traveling salesmen sometimes fell victim to violence because of the purses of money they might be carrying.

A peddler who had recently been trading with the local citizens was found dead under an apple tree on Micah Rood’s farm, his skull cracked open and his money stolen. Rood was suspected of murder, but there was no proof. He became a recluse to shut out the whisperings of his neighbors.

Later that year, the story goes, the tree on which the unfortunate victim had bled and died bore red apples instead of its normal yellow ones. And from then on the tree’s fruit had the red mark at the core, like a bloodstain. It was said that every apple was a curse on Micah Rood; he and his farm fell into decay and disrepair, and he died. The tree lived on, and grafts from it spread the apple to orchards across Connecticut and other states. The variety was said to have been widely cultivated, but I have not been able to find a Micah Rood apple available today. If it did really exist, I fear it has been lost like so many other early heirloom varieties.

The Bloody Ploughman

Luckily a similar heirloom variety of apple, also with a gruesome legend and a sensational appearance, still thrives in the United Kingdom. The Bloody Ploughman apple was first recorded in 1883, in Scotland. Like the Micah Rood apple, it has red “bloodstains” in its flesh, and dark, blood-red skin.

The tale behind the name is that a laborer was regularly stealing apples from a Scottish estate, but he got caught and was shot dead. His widow threw the apples out onto the midden with the refuse, thinking them unlucky. A tree sprouted there, grew into a tree, bore new apples, and was given a spooky new name. Bloody Ploughman apples are said to be juicy and crisp, a mid-season variety when grown in southeast England.


Apples_Apfelsorten_Diel-Lucas Image from the 6th edition of Meyers großem Konversationslexikon (1885–90), via Wikimedia Commons.

Image from the 6th edition of Meyers großem Konversationslexikon (1885–90), via Wikimedia Commons.


The Apple Girl

One of the most popular of the stories collected and retold by Italo Calvino in his Italian Folktales is “Apple Girl” (condensed and paraphrased here by me). Even though murder is attempted only indirectly in the tale, the imagery and rather nonsensical plot are eerie unto themselves:

A childless king and queen wished for a baby. The queen wondered why she couldn’t bear children the way an apple tree produces apples. Soon enough, she gave birth–to an apple. It was an exceptionally beautiful apple, and the king displayed it on a tray of gold, on his balcony. One day, another king glanced at the balcony and saw a lovely young woman, bathing and combing her hair. When she saw him, she ran to the apple, dove in, and disappeared. But this king had already fallen in love with her.

The king begged Apple Girl’s parents to give him the apple. They refused, but finally gave in to keep the peace with their royal neighbor. He took the apple home to his own chambers, and laid out everything Apple Girl needed: a golden fruit bowl, a comb, and water. Apple Girl would emerge from the fruit each morning; all she would do was comb her hair and perform her ablutions. She never spoke, and never ate.

The king kept to his chambers so much that his stepmother became suspicious. She wanted to know what he was up to. When he had to go off to fight in a war, he left the care of the magical apple to his most trustworthy servant. But as soon as the king left, the stepmother managed to sneak into his rooms. The only thing unusual she saw there was the magnificent apple in its golden bowl. Out of pure spite, she stabbed the apple all over with a small dagger she kept hidden in her gown. The apple began to bleed red blood out of every wound, and the wicked stepmother ran away in terror.

When the servant found the bloody scene, he panicked. The king would kill him for failing to protect the apple. Luckily, the servant had an aunt with knowledge of magical powders. She blended the right mix for him, which he sprinkled on the apple’s wounds. Instantly the apple split open, and out came Apple Girl, covered in bandages.

The king returned from war, and Apple Girl spoke her first words to him. She told him how she had been under a spell, and how his stepmother had almost killed her but that the servant had saved her. Apple Girl married the king and they lived happily near her parents; the stepmother fled and was never seen again.

© 2015 by Sheryl Humphrey. All rights reserved.

. . .

Further Reading

Calvino, Italo. Italian Folktales. Translated by George Martin. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 1980 [originally published 1956 in Italian by Giulio Einaudi, Torino].

Garden Apple I.D. website: http://www.gardenappleid.co.uk/index.php/alphabetic-list-of-apples/92-bloody-ploughman .

Humphrey, Sheryl. The Haunted Garden: Death and Transfiguration in the Folklore of Plants. Self-published, 2012. [The stories of Micah Rood and Bloody Ploughman in this post are excerpted, in slightly edited form, from this book.]

Skinner, Charles M. Myths and Legends of Flowers, Trees, Fruits, and Plants in All Ages and in All Climes. Amsterdam: Fredonia Books, 2002 [reprinted from the 1911 edition]

* * *

Photo by Sheryl's husband, Edward Coppola.

Photo by Sheryl’s husband, Edward Coppola.


Sheryl Humphrey is an artist in Staten Island, NY; see her art at http://www.sherylhumphrey.tumblr.com/. She is also the author of The Haunted Garden: Death and Transfiguration in the Folklore of Plants, available at https://www.etsy.com/listing/118819081/the-haunted-garden.



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Growing October by Pat Kennelly

“Young Girl Carrying a Pumpkin” by Fausto Zonaro, via Wikimedia Commons

Pat Kennelly and I met in the garden. The virtual garden, that is. Years ago she noticed my first blog, Greenwoman Zine, where I was writing about my community garden experiences and and my new publishing venture. She wrote me, and I was excited to learn we lived in the same town. We met and a friendship bloomed. We feel that gardens are places of magic, places to play, to create, and cultivate plants that nourish the mind and soul. We’ve shared plants: dahlias, tomatoes, succulents, and more, and when we were checking in the other day we started talking about Halloween. “Do you have a poem about the garden in fall?” I asked. She sent me the one below, and I said, “Tell me more!”

–Sandra Knauf

Growing October

By the garage—
in that poor soil
where nothing grows
except hens and chickens
and velvety lamb’s ears
I plant October.

When I find them, in the late afternoon light,
I want to lie with them, waxy and smooth yet stippled
with scar tissue. When they were green, ghostly,
we carved our names into their soft skin.
Now their leaves gently brush my cheek,
they wrap their tendrils around my wrist
pulling me in.

* * *

Pat shares this about her poem and her gardening:

I wrote this poem in 2012 after I literally fell into the spot where I was growing larger pumpkins next to the garage. I was riding my bike and was overloaded with books from the library . . . I lay there, hoping no one saw me. It was so peaceful among the vines, the poem came to me. I never did write my name in a pumpkin, but I read you could do that (pumpkin scarring). In the last three years, I haven’t grown pumpkins. They take up so much room and I fell hard for the flowers in the garden. But I did love growing them.

I’ve been gardening since I moved to Colorado. I’ve always been drawn to the beauty and informality of cottage gardens. I love growing herbs and vegetables alongside climbing roses, grape vines, and an abundance of old fashioned flowers including dahlias, zinnias, sweet peas, day lilies, bachelor buttons, sweet William, poppies, and native Colorado wildflowers and grasses. And like most gardens mine has evolved over the years, I still have space for herbs, onions and garlic but the last few years the bed for vegetables has been sacrificed, I willingly let the flowers take over. For many years I grew pumpkins, mostly the smaller ones or odd ones I couldn’t find easily in Colorado like ‘Lumina,’ or ‘Baby Boo’ or ‘Jack Be Little’. The larger pumpkins, I grew outside of the garden fence where they had room to spread their vines and leaves with abandon.

pumpkins and dahlias.JPG

Pumpkins from Pat’s garden. Photo by Pat Kennelly.

Pat Kennelly headshot BW-1 - squared (2)

Pat Kennelly is a poet and writer who lives and gardens in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She often incorporates the natural world and the beauty of place into her poetry. Most recently her work has appeared in Poet’s Market, Messages From the Hidden Lake, and Haibun Today.


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“Plight of a Peony” by Hilary Hauck

'Strawberry Swirl' peony; image by Hilary Hauck

The luscious ‘Strawberry Swirl’ peony. Photo by Hilary Hauck.

Hilary was very gracious to share one of her poems and a little write up of her memories gardening in England–with her mum! I’m sure you’ll enjoy both as much as I did. It’s so fun to get to know our readers. Thanks, Hilary!

–Sandra Knauf

Plight of a Peony

Beneath luxuriant massage of
ant paws tromping nectar,
petals in fierce embrace
play their favorite guessing game
nymph or no nymph?

Weary of mischief the layered clasp allows
translucent ruffles to escape with
ethereal scent of coveted infusion
in bow of elegant piousness
king of flowers.

Devil–may-care of fleetingness,
the peony regales with pageantry of beetles
spelunking in search of a cure,
strawberry swirl feast fit for a fly
subject of art.

Graceful to the end, tinged plumes
expose bounty woodpeckers peck eyes for,
arranging piles of concluding goodness,
plush swirls in final offering
wilted banquet for crawlers and mud.

"Feast Fly" photo by Hilary Hauck.

“Feast Fly” photo by Hilary Hauck.


I inherited my love of gardens from my Mum, if I may keep the British spelling. Some of my earliest memories are tagging along as she tended the garden (or yard, as you might call it) of an elderly lady in our village in Kent. Mostly I remember smells and textures—damp soil, windfall apples, a creosote shed, moss in unexpected places. It was better than any playground, a jungle of hiding spots amongst plants taller than I was. Every inch of earth was intentionally occupied—the best way to prevent weeds from encroaching, a philosophy Mum still swears by today. When I think of Mum, I think of gardens. The thing I miss most about home on the other side of the ocean is her garden.

A few years ago, my husband and I built a house at the end of a dirt road in the woods of Pennsylvania. Long before we were able to lay a lawn, I spent hours digging clay, amending it with manure and peat. I transplanted favorite perennials from our old house, some my Mum planted, including two peonies which astound me each year with the generosity of their blooms. And then there were the car-fulls of lily of the valley, irises, phlox, columbine, and many other plants my mother-in-law (spelled Mom) dug from her yard in Ohio, along with roses of Sharon and a trumpet vine that originated in her sister’s yard in New York. Our garden still needs a lot of shaping and taming, a process taking longer than we expected, but there’s something poignant about the way it has come into being as a sprawling happenchance. Quite fitting like a rooting of new family ties, a grafting together of family traditions.

–Hilary Hauck


Hilary’s photo by her husband, Darryl Hauck.

Hilary Hauck grew up in Kent, a county also known as the Garden of England. She spent much of her young adult life in Italy, where she taught English as a Foreign Language and studied another of her great passions, cooking. She married Darryl and moved to Pennsylvania in the early 2000s. Between them they have 3 children and 2 grandchildren. Hilary is a freelance translator of Italian, and she writes fiction and poetry.

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Legacy of African Violets

"African violet (Saintpaulia)," by mk2010, via Wikimedia Commons.

“African violet (Saintpaulia),” by mk2010, via Wikimedia Commons.

I went wild over this poem from Tricia Knoll, and I’ve never owned an African violet. I think you will feel the same. She was kind enough to let me share it with you today. You might also wish to check out her chapbook “Urban Wild”–it’s full of goodies.

–Sandra Knauf


Legacy of African Violets

I owned up late to an inheritance of African Violets,
flirty-skirt blooms on fleshy stems. Fifty years
to finger plastic-potted posies I wrote off. Too Norman Rockwell,
lazy-girl gifts for the frail elderly, not for mothers of newborns.
A pick-and-grab of metallic foil and a humble bow. Cheap.

My grandmother’s and my mother’s violets showed off indoors
after their roses browned out. In sunny windows on a mahogany table,
each rested in a cereal bowl to catch leaks. They chose colors
of apricots and watermelons, maybe an edging of white.
My grandmother’s sat prissy below an oil lamp turned electric
that dripped crystal prisms, flitting dancing rainbows
in the sun. Blooms and light shows.

My mother picked a leather-topped table for winter, then moved them
to the black wrought-iron table with a glass top on the summer porch
beside her folded crossword puzzle, a pen with blue ink,
and a bowl of jelly beans.

Modesty, the Victorians said of violets. I’d say temperance,
Not too much water, just enough morning sun. Water-soluble fertilizer.
Plush earlobe leaves listening to quiet violins.

Last fall I tired of sweeping up after an asparagus fern in my laundry room.
The sun angle was right for violets, I knew that from living
with those women. My picks had furred teddy bear leaves
and blooms of lavender and mother of pearl. I pinch off spent blooms
and dead leaves, thumbnail and forefinger, a woman-gesture
I’ve seen a million times.

My polite fauna-kittens don’t mind bows,
do nicely without them, thrive
in slow-hand clock turns toward light
to rebalance and bloom
and rebloom as if growing old is easy.

* * *


Tricia Knoll is a Portland, Oregon poet who has maintained a garden all her life, sowing the seeds of sanity. She grew up admiring her mother’s roses and vegetable garden. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener. Her chapbook Urban Wild is available from Amazon and focuses on interactions between humans and wildlife in urban habitat. Her book Ocean’s Laughter will be out from Aldrich Press in spring of 2016. The poetry in Ocean’s Laughter reflects on environmental issues related to a small town on the Oregon coast. For links to many published poems, visit website: triciaknoll.com


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