☛ Submission for October, 2024 issue (Vol. 5, No. 2) is going on. The last date for submission is 30 September, 2024.

THE COMPLETE GARDENER For Melvyn Smith - Geoffrey Philp (Jamaica)



For Melvyn Smith

- Geoffrey Philp (Jamaica)

Leaves blackened by neglect in a sunbaked

flower potnear the entrance of our communal

garbage bin, the headless stalk of a chrysanthemum,

peeked from under a veil of tissue paper,

like a bride who’d been jilted at the altar.


Probably a gift to my neighbor whose boyfriend

has been banging on her door for three weeks,

begging for a second chance, or maybe for my neighbor

upstairs who grips the railing when he drags his body

to his apartment since his mother died a month ago,

I decided against the voice of my thrice-divorced

father about wasting energy on something

that was going to die anyway, and introduced her

to the lilies, irises, and other orphaned plants

in my garden, so she could soak in the light rain

the weatherman had promised that Friday afternoon.


But the showers turned to thunderstorms,

ruining my wife’s plans for quiet time

on South Beach to reconnect and discuss

our plans in this uncertain future of plagues

and black flags near the lake where our children

planted palms that now tower over their heads.


So we binge-watched old movies on Netflix,

tried new recipes on our air fryer,

occasionally stepping outside to make sure

torrents from the gutters hadn’t swept her away.


Our respite came on Monday morning

when I jumped out of bed before exercising,

trying to beat the garbage truck’s grumble,

when I glimpsed behind the leaves of an anthurium,

I’d smuggled out of Jamaica after the death

of my best friend’s father-- who became my father

for ten of his fifty-year marriage--how he struggled

through a heart condition that would kill him,

and with his water can and shears patiently pruned

his roses and wayward bougainvilleas, lavishing

attention on shy ferns—under the falling petals

of frangipani, a bud bursting through her hardened stem.