Saturday, April 10, 2010



Murmuring voices of passersby drift
in the air to my open window
four stories up, drowned
in a sudden blast of rap music
from a passing car. In its wake,
relief. Pitcher in hand,
I climb the fire escape,
crouching on the wrought-iron bars
to tend my plants.

An arc of water dances on the soil
of my fire escape garden, and I breathe
the rich scent of wet earth, admire
the fragrant herbs in fourteen pots,
my faith renewed after last year’s failures.
One ripe tomato was my crop.
Out of six plants, three didn’t flower.
Basil fared better, but scarcely
flourished. Abandoned in the fall,
the plants withered and died.

All winter the pots remained outside,
a reproach. One night, drunk and angry,
our upstairs neighbor shattered his window.
Glass rained down, splattering the pots,
a volley crashing on the fire escape,
followed by cursing and wailing.
Another binge, we learned. Weeks later
I met the culprit in the elevator,
a beret covering his sparse hair.
Wearing shorts like a boy, gripping
a walker, he slurred a greeting,
as he beamed a silly, innocent smile.
I pretended with him not to know.
Will he survive the next one? I wonder.
He’s quiet for the moment, if not sober.

Charmed by an upstate nursery,
I’ve multiplied my hopes
and spent my cash on a flat
of thriving plants, more this year,
plus thirty pounds of potting soil,
and a blue potion named ‘Miracle Grow.’
I’ve taken the old pots,
dumped last year’s dirt,
scrubbed them with bleach
and rinsed them clean,
transplanted the herbs,
watered, with new earth.
There’s basil again, and coriander,
silvery sage and flat-leafed parsley,
tarragon, thyme, and rosemary,
and lemon balm with candied breath.

I’ll stake these plants and water them,
protect them as I can against
the weather, predators, drunkards.
I’ll harvest them leaf by leaf.
Nourished, I’ll let grow
back what’s taken.


Anne Whitehouse is a Southern writer, born and bred in Birmingham, Alabama. Her website is and you can see reviews, her blogs in Poetica magazine and her other publications. her short story, MINNIE LEE’S FUNERAL, set in Birmingham, was just republished in THE 2ND HAND.

Anne Whitehouse is featured in the Editions Bibliotekos blog writing about
“Early Literary Influences.” in connection with the anthology Pain and
Memory and the 4/22/10 reading at St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights,
New York

The Dew will be reviewing her newest book: Blessings and Curses on June 6th.