In the Pandemic Garden

by Jessica Barksdale


The tomatoes were called Green Zebra
or Jupiter’s Stripes, these varietals
mingled with Yellow as Hell
and Orb of Gold or Total Nuclear
Apocalypse. Who knows?
They were all late bloomers, grown
from seed, trays laid out in the bathroom
for weeks before I tucked them
into their earthen beds.

But what a summer, COVID-19 a feeling
as well as a disease, the garden a slow-growing
pause from quarantine despite the snails
and katydids. Maybe I forced
the plants to stay small, so I would have more
to do. Let me water you forever,
they intuited, knowing at the end,
nothing but certain death.

Meanwhile, the Red Spangled Flag,
Cinnamon Stick Watermelon Big Ass,
and the Bursting with Overwhelming Joy
flamed with burgundy, scarlet, flame,
pulsed to the Make the Damn Homemade
Sauce sonata. Meanwhile, I watered
on, my dark shadow against the fence,
my back bent, stooped, me no seedling,
me the tender, the bearer, the crone,
the woman who holds the hose.



Jessica Barksdale’s second poetry collection Grim Honey was published in April, and her fifteenth novel, The Play’s the Thing, is forthcoming in May 2021. Recently retired, she taught composition, literature, and creative writing at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California for thirty-two years and continues to teach novel writing online for UCLA Extension and in the online MFA program for Southern New Hampshire University. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband. Liz Baron is an artist and restaurateur who lives in Texas by way of New York City. She and her husband, Jim, founded, own and operate four Mexican-Southwestern restaurants. She got her Bachelor of Fine Art from Pratt Institute but stopped painting when restaurant work and family life consumed most of her time. She is grateful to the online art classes of Sketchbook Skool that helped her regain the joy of a regular art practice.