Two poems by Steve Maurer


What To Hold On To

What to hold on to
In one room.

This, a life:

Years and years of letters from another country,

A turtle shell,

An Australian flag,

A pocket knife,

An English penny gifted 40 years ago

By a sailor on an airplane

Who wished he too was starting off for college.

A stamp with a poet's image,

A denim shirt that crossed generations,

Two guitars,

And hats.

Oh, my hats ....

Ozone Park

The truth of it is,
I got into gardening because I like to argue.

Neighbors said they would clean up the lot

And put in a garden to show the neighborhood was "together."

I said, "Get together first,

Then make a garden."

But they went ahead and I got involved

Because they didn't know much about watering

And shade-loving or sun-tolerant

And native or perennial.

We started with an invasive rose 

already entrenched In the dry soil,

A dozen or so coreopsis, some daisies,

Marigolds, coleus.

And always there were people who would stop

To tell us there was a better way to do things.

Someone would say don't water in the morning,

Don't plant at night,

Not to use peat,

That our mix was off,

Or things were too close ...

A week after Thanksgiving

We put three trees in right next to the curb

Complete with poles to protect them.

We cracked the concrete, hauled it away

And then dug the holes

Because the contractor we had already paid to do the job

Had skipped. Then when we were done

This architect came by and said we'd planted

One tree too deep.

And that it wouldn't make it.

And that we should dig it up now.

I told him that it was an Ash,

That nothing could kill it. It would survive.

I was holding a crowbar and only meant to hand it to him.

"Here, you pry it," I said,

And must have looked upset because 

My neighbor stepped in and said to the architect

"Look, guy, just leave."

Twenty years later now that tree is still there.

It made it.

You know I could care less about slugs, grubs,

And Japanese beetles.

Worms I don't like much either.

They don't do anything for me like when I was a kid.

But you need them.

And there on the lot watching things happen

I found out I really liked bees

Because they are so organized.

That place we began with was mattresses,

 broken bottles, needles,

And all kinds of trash like you wouldn't believe.

After the first clean-up a sign showed up

That said "Ozone Park."

Then came "Walk on by but not on, PLEASE!"

In a word, everyone at last was for it.

It was the biggest mess you could put together.

We bought anything on sale.

It was a sight.

What made it was what stayed.

Then when the red flowers were stolen we put in yellow.

We put cayenne pepper around the edges

Just to let the dogs know we marked territory too.

And in the end

It was just three of us one evening

Hooking up a hose to a hydrant, 

Access approved by the fire department

With a wrench they made us swear we'd hide,

All the towers in the city in front of us 

And around us glowing,

And a laughing laughing moon.

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