This poem was first published by Upwrite Magazine.
In the early evening, a Korean grandmother
works alone in her garden by the river.
She sits low to the earth, hunched over like a bright purple cushion,
planting vegetables and picking weeds.
One side of the garden is outlined in garbage:
bottles, plastic bags, empty food containers
dumped in a line and partially buried.
The other side is lined with bundles of sticks roughly tied together.
I watch her from the river trail as she works in a tiny section of the dirt.
She never moves farther than her arms can reach.
Next to her walker, in the shade of the cherry blossoms,
she silently manipulates what she can,
ignoring every bicycle as it passes.
I’m overwhelmed by the amount of work
and her lack of mobility. Her efforts seem impossible
until I notice the canola flowers rising in a patch of triumph.
They blow quietly in the evening air like yellow canaries behind her back,
still parallel to the ground at the other end of the early spring garden.
There is no praise, no congratulations, no one to keep her company.
Just the sunset arriving shortly,
bouncing through the yellow flowers,
reflecting off the line of trash,
and the woman in her garden,
dutifully tending to the next thing.