44. Lily-flowered Tulips

My hands are covered in dirt.

I dig in dank soil,

dense enough to bend back

the cheap handle of our new-bought

bulb-planting tool. Mosquitos

blur between my eyes and bangs


and I can’t wipe my face from sweat

with these earthen hands. In each

tubed hole, I reach an old spoon

to tap its tip against the brasting bulb.

I am trying to see into the earth


but the dark minions are in my eyes

and the green flopping leaves of hosta

remind me how many things, from

plant to double-headed dog

or gatekeeper waiting for change

are meant to keep me

from seeing or living down into it.


Our world wants up

amongst the bite and sting and sweat.

The dug earth might smell

of wet dog and blackened leaf,

and the tulips might wave to us

each spring coming,


but they’re as close as we can get

and not nearly enough: no

merging of our world will ever occur

with that of our still loved

and harder and harder to remember dead.

— Laura Lee Washburn

Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University, Laura Lee Washburn, is an editorial board member of the Woodley Memorial Press, and the author of  This Good Warm Place (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in Carolina Quarterly, Valparaiso Review, The Sun, The Journal, and elsewhere.  Born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she has lived in Pittsburg since 1997.  She is married to the writer Roland Sodowsky.

2 thoughts on “44. Lily-flowered Tulips

  1. Nice to see you here. Am also enjoying your Warm Place.
    Brasting? A new word for me! Had to find that one.
    Writer husband? That must be interesting and handy to have around!

    • Hi Claudia,

      I just found your note from April. I’m glad you’re enjoying the book. A little secret, I made up “brasting,” combining “braising” and “roasting” or something like that. I don’t usually do that. The writer husband is both interesting and handy. He can do laundry and write poems and short stories. Also, something of a human dictionary.

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