In the picture

my father sits on the grass
of the front lawn, in shirtsleeves,
digging with a claw-shaped tool
the patch of crabgrass that had survived
his careful application of weed-killer.

Our house in New Jersey, solid,
modest as even corporate houses
used to be, three bedrooms and
a single garage for the family car,
sported a nitrogen-green lawn
with a crabapple tree in the middle
that bloomed every Mother’s Day.

It was important back then
for men to mow, weed, fertilize
the exterior verdure every weekend,
to indicate respectability, to validate
the family’s pride of place, trim the shrubs,
prune beds of chrysanthemums on either side
of the three bricked steps leading to
the front door with a welcome mat
that read “Home, Sweet Home.”

Hidden among the vestiges of bluegrass
cut weekly and kept weedless
were chemicals that could later wipe out
whole villages in Viet Nam and pass on
a disease of trembling and hallucinations
to my father, who wanted only
a patch of lawn on which the children
could play tag in a firefly twilight.

About the Author

Donna Pucciani, a Chicago-based writer, has published poetry worldwide in Shi Chao Poetry, Poetry Salzburg, Acumen, Gradiva, Meniscus, and other journals. Her seventh and most recent book of poetry is EDGES.