American Life in Poetry: Column 448


I open every spring with a garden more precisely laid out and cared for than the year before, and by the end of summer it’s collapsed into a tangle of weeds, bugs and disorder. Here’s Gabriel Welsch, a poet from Pennsylvania, carrying a similar experience right into winter.

A Garden’s End

Forsythia, scaled and bud-bangled,
I pruned to a thatch of leaves
for the curb, by the squirrel-gnawed
corn, silk strewn, kernels tooth carved
and husks shorn over the ground
pocked with paw prints.

The borers mashed the squash vine,
the drought tugged the roots of sage,
catmint languished by the sidewalk,
tools grew flowers of rust.

That winter we left our hope
beneath the snow, loved through the last
of the onions, watched the late leeks freeze
to crystal, bent like sedges, their shadows
on the snow. That winter we left
our hope beneath the snow.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2012 by Gabriel Welsch from his most recent book of poems, The Death of Flying Things, WordTech Editions, 2012. Poem reprinted by permission of Gabriel Welsch and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2019 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.