Snapshot, by Marjorie Maddox
In the photo within the photo, the small girl waters the earth,
the dirt-tinged past wedged between twigs in a garden
fenced-in by stones and memory. The imaginary, the dead,
the living—all crisscross like brittle vines. Who is looking out
at the world now? Beyond the bright blossoms, a coffin
looms small. Or is it a working well? At the edge of the yard lies
the future. Gray or green? The end of the story lies
in what we choose. The small child waters the earth.
Is she me? Is she you? She knows nothing of coffins
at the edge of the world, just keeps watering her garden,
the seeds she cannot see. She believes someone else looks out
for the rest of the earth, for her. She doesn’t know the dead
sky has something to tell her, the fragile dome already dying
the day pride and desire cracked Eden with the lie
of plucked dominion. All she wants is to look out
at the well at the end of her yard. There, beneath the earth,
more water hides. She believes this, feeds her garden
religiously. Will you tell her? Will I? Soon the coffin
looms larger; the stone wall cracks. Someone is coughing.
A child peers from behind a crumbling fence. Is she the new Eden, dying
again? But still, there is that old photo; the small child loves her garden.
Surely, she can learn to till and plant, to care for the creatures that lie
beyond the boundaries of her own square of walled-in earth.
Surely, she can look within, then learn to look outside
her small plot. Will you teach her? Will I? A garden is a lookout
for the world, the view long. What will you build? A well? A coffin?
In the photo within the photo, a child waters a new old earth.
Will she replenish the dried-up well, follow the wisest dead
and recover Eden, detouring around all lies?
Will she sense the Christ child there, digging in the garden?
In the photo within the photo, the small girl waters her garden:
there is no fear or drought, no contamination. Look out
at the world. Look in at the sins of omission. Prophecy lies
just beyond our garden walls; the now rusted nails in the coffin
pollute even our wells. And yet, the small girl is listening. The dead
teach us this. Return with her to Eden. Show her the earth
can still bloom with God’s glory, can deconstruct the world’s coffin.
The dead rise up calling for mercy. Will you listen? Will I? The earth
waits impatiently. Outside/within us, the secret answer lies: Look—the Garden.
Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University and author of fourteen collections of poetry, Marjorie Maddox enjoys collaborating with visual artists, most recently with Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For, an ekphrastic collaboration with photographer Karen Elias and the forthcoming In the Museum of My Daughter’s Mind, based on her daughter’s paintings (www.hafer.work) + works by other artists (both from Shanti Arts). For more info, see www.marjoriemaddox.com
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