last straw

Photo:  JAComstock on Flickr

Nondescript beige raincoat two sizes too large,
black rubber wellies turned down at the top,
a man’s fishing hat perched atop her head, and
tattered grey hair bristling out from under
like winter hay, each morning she emerges
well before dawn, a small bent woman
long past middle age, all wrinkles and
determination, to kneel in the front lawn
and perform delicate surgery on the crabgrass,
while her husband sleeps.


Over the days and weeks, as he comes and goes
in his little car, she excavates the lawn,  inch
by loving inch. Alone she takes her daily walk,
a hunched brown sparrow, muttering, shuffling
toward some unknown destination, packsack slung
across her back, following a path of her own devising.

And on election day, in solemn ritual, she tapes
to the lamppost near the ransacked lawn a sign,
hand-printed in bird-track letters meandering
in a trembling wobble across the page.  Please vote,”
it says, “for Marian Aldrich, who will work for you
and who has a good heart.”

One fine summer morning, the spreading maples
in their yard suddenly sprout baskets of flowers
suspended like fruit from each leafy bottom branch.


That same day, she tenderly plants on that same front lawn,
in random design – meticulously chosen – two tomato plants
and seeds that turn out to be squash, then retires to an
old kitchen chair beneath the hanging-planter trees,
in her big billy boots, legs demurely crossed,
to read the newspaper.


From time to time through open summer windows,
voices are raised in argument.  One day we hear him cry,
I just don’t understand you anymore!”

Then one bright dawn she fails to appear on her morning lawn.
The house stands closed and empty. Neighbours, alert
as wrens behind their fine lace curtains, are all atwitter.
Away on vacation, they decide.


Time passes.  The tomato plants beside the driveway
grow spindly, for no one’s there to feed or water them.
The squash plants spread, briefly, in their exuberant
way, then yellow and fade back into the earth.

Fall comes.  The car is back in the driveway,
yet still no loving hand tends this singular garden.

Tell me, did someone decide that vegetables in the lawn
were the very last straw?

~ Susannah


    1. She returned, much subdued, now virtually a shadow of herself. Powerful medications can do that to a person.

      She never again made her front lawn a canvas for her particular art. No, that’s not quite true: just once, a single red rose appeared, planted next to the sidewalk. A last hurrah, I thought to myself. A final defiant cry before the extinguishing of a particular – and harmless – personality.

      The neighbourhood children loved that rose. It couldn’t – and didn’t – last.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thanks, Rob. I certainly was – well, not pissed so much as saddened by the whole thing. The spectre of mental illness, in all its shades and permutations, is a difficult row to hoe for everyone involved, and I felt for both of these people.


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