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Alison Hawthorne Deming


It’s Tuesday. I am going to the dentist. I will wait in my car, call the receptionist, be told when to enter, must wear mask, have temperature taken. Then the cleaning. Put off now for a month. I am scared this is risky behavior. I am in a high-risk group. Old. A fact I live with. Don’t try to soothe it away. Right now a honey bee is hammering into the window above my desk. Confused. Who isn’t. During quarantine, I‘ve seen a clutch of five house finches grow from five gaping mouths to fledglings. The parents built a nest on a small ledge under my patio roof tucked behind a foot-wide plastic thermometer that today registers 80 degrees in the shade at 8 AM. I think the fledglings know me. They seem less afraid than other birds. I was part of their territory from the start. They fly near the nest they’ve abandoned. Is that circumstantial or nostalgic on their part? I’m sure they prefer flight to the desperation of gaping, crowded into a shit piled bunch of weeds. Still they are at home in the vicinity of their origin. At home I work at the desk on poems set in Spain and Greece and Canada. I think of Elizabeth Bishop’s “Questions of Travel” and how Geography III broke me out of myself. House finch me. I am growing lettuce and arugula and chard in ceramic pots. It’s too hot for them, but with shade cloth draped over them, I might eke out a few more weeks of leaves. Two more pots: one with yellow squash and zucchini, one with those tomatoes that look dark green when ripe, their meat dense and sweet. I remember the decade when I lived in Vermont, the gardens then with everything New England: beans, beets, carrots, corn, cabbage, and all. The freezer full. On guard against frost. Now it’s heat. An urban micro-garden that gives no less joy or worry. Tending is the most healing thing I do. I should be tending to my family home on Grand Manan at this time of year, planting the garden there, settling into the island’s rhythms, watching the fishing boats come and go from North Head, listening to the thunk of the driver setting stakes in the herring weirs. I should be heading down to 4-Cs Convenience today, where, so Facebook says, fresh halibut is in. This year staying away is tending, as no one on the island wants to see inhabitants of the viral capital of the world heading their way. Let’s see. What else? Friends, I miss you. Here is my love.


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