Burlapped Bushes

Shaking snow from bamboo leaves,
relieving arcing necks wet weight, is task
enough with fat flakes plummeting I consider
jangling our bushes less blanketed

than buried. Then re-consider,
considering my neighbors’ burlapped
shrubs garbed for weather—¬ swaddled,
tucked taut against winters worst

Next-door foliage poses impeccably clad
draped elegantly groomed, as for cotillion
or austere nuptial— coddled
compared to my wild charges risking

life and limbs crack, bending
breaking off sometimes splitting
open revealing sturdy inner labyrinth
(hopeful core nurtured during spring)

My wild plantings appear neglected
when spied by uninvited onlookers or
are drive-by heads shaking sideways
over something other? Like science

fair parents milling blankly past our kids’
display every year stopping staring
ogling more buttoned projects… ones
revealing no glue leaking through seams

no staples splayed no pencil traces under
erased under marker letters explaining
how volcano or tornado or aqueduct
or lithium battery creates what it creates

Our kids all chocolate chip waffled blueberry
pancaked bubble bathed halloweened bike helmeted
museumed sung to read to thrown to and caught kids
all knew their lot, when it came to science

didn’t seem fair, comparing their sweat
stained efforts against those polished
attention garners gathering ribbons gilding
imperial mantels for imperious parents

Were we misguided as trophy dearth
absent blue ribbons testify? Am I misguiding
never wrapping my bushes as tender tended
children… aware letting nature nurture hurts

while helping– Sure seems that way outside this
brutal winter day with my shovel in hands with
my hands in outgrown mittens, wet worn seemingly
warm enough just to clear a path

Poem by J Brooke
Photograph by Beatrice Alda

– J Brooke (answers to “they”, prefers “e”) won Columbia Journal’s 2020 Womxn’s History Month Nonfiction Award, was a winner of Beyond Words Literary Magazine’s 2020 Dream Challenge, received Honorable Mention in Streetlight Magazine’s 2020 Essay/Memoir Contest, had a fiction essay in the top seven finalists for North American Review’s 2020 Kurt Vonnegut Prize. Publications include Columbia Journal, Harvard Review, The Maine Review, TSR-The Southampton Review, RFD Magazine, Hartskill Review, Rubbertop Review, Mom Egg Review. Brooke was Nonfiction Editor of the Stonecoast Review while receiving an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine. A graduate of Bryn Mawr College, e majored in creative writing at Haverford College. Brooke’s misspent youth was spent in advertising.