What’s Kept Alive

She crunches her walker
into the sea of pebbles
surrounding the stepping-stones,

tells me, This bush 
with flowers is Japanese. 
That one is too, but different.

I hover close behind, ready
with an outstretched arm
as if to give a blessing.

Pick that large weed 
near the lantern—by the roots— 
and throw it into the pail.

My father planned and planted
this garden fifty years ago—
hidden behind the fence
of their Santa Rosa tract home—

but he’s gone now.
She hires a hand to rake leaves,
prune branches once a month.

Soon she’ll be gone.
I’ll sell the house,
return to Connecticut.

A stranger will buy it,
become caretaker of the garden,
but won’t know that from their

San Francisco apartment
my father transported
the Japanese maple, cradled
in a small clay pot —

the momiji now guarding
the north corner—
and that my mother chided
him for bothering with a dying shrub.

Aaron Caycedo-Kimura, “What’s Kept Alive” from Common Grace. Used with the permission of the publisher, Beacon Press. All rights reserved.