by Janet R. Kirchheimer (New York, NY)
I was eleven the spring my father singed his eyebrows off
while burning down pear trees.
Anne Carson says dirt is a minor thing.
This is not true.
Perhaps she has not seen a string bean pushing
its way up through the dirt.
The Rabbis say that Adam gave names to all the animals,
but do not say who named the trees.
These are some of the plant names I love:
Joseph’s coat, Persian shield, Silver shrub, African mallow.
Once in January, my father woke me at four o’clock in the morning
to help cover the parsley in our garden with blankets.
Frost was on the ground.
Stars, so bright at that time of the year, lit the garden.
In June, I call home to ask my father about the gladiolas.
He says some are coming, some are going.
The Talmud says occasionally rain falls because of the merit
of one man, the merit of one blade of grass, of one field.
Janet R. Kirchheimer is the author of How to Spot One of Us, poems about her family and the Holocaust. Her recent work has appeared in The Poet’s Quest for God and is forthcoming in Forgotten Women. Janet is currently producing AFTER, a cinematic film about Holocaust poetry. https://www.facebook.com/AfterAPoetryFilm/
This poem is reprinted from Mima’amakim with the kind permission of the author.