Gardens aren’t for ornament

We're told a privacy fence is fine
enclosing three sides of the backyard;

but it's hinted that a metal or
picket border in front would seem

a bit in the neighbors' faces, a kind
of message that might smack of disinterest

in mingling. The strip of grass along
our sidewalks is public space— planted

with aging pines that shed their needles
and dead branches everywhere. Back

in my childhood, the women in every house-
hold had charge of burning dead leaves

at sundown; we could pick plants
and herbs for healing, and straighten

runners of beans and sweet potato
when we passed. But we were taught

everything else in nature knows its time
and place, in spite of our forced calendars.

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