The Garden of Pain Needs a Good Hard Freeze

"A Snowy Day" and "Burrs," two poems by Paula Bohince

The Garden of Pain Needs a Good Hard Freeze

A Snowy Day

The snow fell first as childhood
longing, small as a soap doll’s Ivory curls,
blown from paring knife to floor.

A few crescents was all there were:
on eyelashes, making it impossible to see,
another landing bitterly on the tongue,

hushing it, dissolving like medicine
as roses erupted on the trellis—grown up,
unafraid of the coming disaster. 

Gradually, it shocked the pine and maple,
birch and black walnut; it seemed
the world was being washed, 

like an infant in the sink, astonished
by a butterfly before it traipsed away: flake
of the first felt moment, a heart-

in-the-throat one, like those holy seconds
before that one door opened or 
the glossiness of a gaze before a kiss.

A rake, forgotten in the garden, 
is powerless as a child left alone, sat close 
to the television, pressed against pixels

to find the rainbow in the glass. 
The birdbath, gone solid, X’d by the robin 
and chickadee, stepping quizzically,

becomes the memory of the ice rink 
where a girl in Dutch braids spun and couples
do-si-do’d to the organ, while watchers

stood outside the circle, heavy in earth-
bound shoes, as the dead assemble to watch
us, ringing our every happiness.


Burrs spangle a garden that cannot be 
anymore called such. In autumn, once plot of innocence 
overrun with seed gone to seed, waiting 
unmet, ghost-children crying somewhere to be lifted. Ignored, 
they withered or crawled away. Was I sleeping 
or reading in a hammock when softly they dissolved? 
Soon the crisis will be over. Drawing close the liquor 
and bread, I’ll think I’m in pain. How strange to have lived 
long in that state and not uttered the word.

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