Planting the Garden

Last fall, four boys stood
on the back porch like snipers,
steadied b.b. guns on the rail,
and fired at G.I. Joes propped on fence posts.
Now body parts of dead soldiers
lie fallow in dirt like volunteer radishes
and I don’t know what I am raising.

These are boys whose skin is smooth as young squash.
War is only what they read about
under covers when the house is still,
dying young is plastic soldiers
gasping in the bean rows.

I pause, my hoe a makeshift crutch,
and cradle a toy face in my hand.
I touch the brown eyes,
the perfect part of hair,
straight as fence wire, just right of the middle.
So like my son’s.

I lay him down,
tuck him in soil.





BarbBarbara Presnell’s newest poetry collection, Blue Star, published by Press 53 in 2016, follows one family’s journey through one hundred years of war. Previously, she published Piece Work, a poetic look at the textile industry in North Carolina and the South. Her poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Malahat Review, storySouth, Chariton Review, and other journals and anthologies. She lives in Lexington, NC, and teaches at UNC-Charlotte.