Weeds, illustration by Melissa Castrillón, from Leaning Toward Light

One Poem by Victoria Chang

from Leaning Toward Light

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Spring Planting

Today I plant bougainvillea and hyacinth. Tomorrow, crocus
and candied pansies.

I am gardening, but my mind is tilling. The crows enter my yard.
They remind me of ink slabs

Chinese calligraphers used—not until mixed with water did
their black ink breathe and broth.

Each morning, goat hairbrush in hand, they sat near willows,
against a dropping moon, drew

all they knew of mist, of hillocks, of lightning behind mulberries.
How strange to think that in just one stroke,

they left themselves on the page. Today, you call to say
you’ve found a new woman,

not a pretty one, but one like a kind of high-quality porcelain
that stands up to daily use.

You say the word ring. I drop my spade. Was it rain or wing?
No, I am wrong.

And the crow I hate descends on the gate, as if to say poor fool.
You tell me she is a heart surgeon.

I imagine her suturing thread into others, recording onto paper
the opening and closing of the heart.

The crow cries in couplets. I bend to pull out another row
of palsied phlox you had planted last spring.

    

    

Leaning Toward Light: Poems for Gardens and the Hands That Tend Them, edited by Tess TaylorThis poem is excerpted from Leaning Toward Light: Poems for Gardens and the Hands That Tend Them (Storey Publishing, 2023), edited by Tess Taylor, a beautiful poetry anthology offering a warm, inviting selection of poems from a wide range of voices that speak to the collective urge to grow, tend, and heal—an evocative celebration of our connection to the green world.

This is the fourth of five poems from the anthology reprinted in Terrain.org over the first week of September 2023. As an introduction to the poems, read Tess Taylor’s “Poems and Gardens as Kind Companions”.

This poem is reprinted by permission of the editor and publisher.

  

Victoria ChangVictoria Chang’s latest book of poetry is The Trees Witness Everything (Copper Canyon Press). Her nonfiction book, Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief (Milkweed Editions), was published in 2021. OBIT (Copper Canyon Press, 2020), her prior book of poems, was named a New York Times Notable Book and a TIME Must-Read Book and received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in Poetry, and the PEN/Voelcker Award. It was also longlisted for a National Book Award and named a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Griffin International Poetry Prize. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, and lives in Los Angeles, where she teaches in Antioch’s low-residency MFA program.

Read Victoria Chang’s Letter to America poem “Obit”, originally published in Terrain.org.

Header image by Melissa Castrillón, from Leaning Toward Light. Photo of Victoria Chang by Isaac Fitzgerald.

Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.