Rochelle Jewel Shapiro
Peter Toda, at 72, created this garden with his Weed Whacker,
his knobbed hands, broad back, and shoulders
that slant as if God misplaced His plumb line.
He uprooted scrub weed to plant Milkweed
where Monarchs lay their pearly eggs.
“The seeds cost me 35 smackers
from my own pocket,” he says. “And when I say plant,
I mean just drop them on the soil
like what happens in nature.”
His hands act out the strewing of seeds,
the depth with the top of his thumb.
“And those small-holed bird houses I put up
are where bluebirds come,” he adds, pointing.
“A bigger hole brings jays, orioles, robins.
It don’t pay to feed birds that eat butterflies.
This here long thin plant is dill. Butterflies like the smell.
Look at them, will you? White Hairstreak on the goldenrod,
Eastern Tailed Blue on the clover. Dusky Azure
on the violets.” The recitation makes his short frame taller.
I stand next to him beneath the domed shadow of my umbrella
like Renoir’s Woman with Parasol in the Garden
painted in 1875, when a brace of butterflies might alight
on the sleeve of your muslin dress or land in your backswept hair.
The Past Hovers
Father lived within the pale of the 14 blocks
between his grocery and our apartment
carved from the 3rd floor of a peeling
summer mansion abandoned by the rich.
I climb the gold steps, my Mary Janes
bumping against the gold tread.
I see him wearing Bermuda shorts,
a sleeveless undershirt, standing
by the open fridge, glugging club soda
from the bottle, his Adam’s apple up/down/up
like the lids of startled eyes.
Approach him slowly. He flinches
at small noises, movements, shadows,
his big fist lashing out. In his armchair,
he dozes with one eye open, Russia
hovering over like a shrike.
Rochelle Jewel Shapiro's novel, Miriam The Medium (Simon & Schuster, 2004), was nominated for the Harold U. Ribelow Award. Her short story collection, What I Wish You’d Told Me was published by Shebooks in 2014. I’ve published essays in NYT (Lives) and Newsweek. Her poetry, short stories, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in many literary magazines such as Mudfish, Westview, The Iowa Review, The Doctor TJ Eckleberg Review, Stone Path Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, Stand, Inkwell Magazine, Amarillo Bay, Poet Lore, Crack the Spine, Compass Rose, Controlled Burn, The Griffin, Los Angeles Review, Reunion: The Dallas Review, The MacGuffin, Memoir And, Moment, Negative Capability, The Louisville Review, Amoskeag, Pennsylvania English, Rio Grande Review, RiverSedge, Licking River Review, Peregrine, Gulf Coast, Existere, Passager, Midway Journal, and Willow Review. Her poetry has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, and she won the Branden Memorial Literary Award from Negative Capability. She currently teach writing at UCLA Extension.