She does not leave my side

I

Across the narrow afternoon she helps me
picking off the winter ground
options of hawthorn, common dogwood,
black thorn, crab apple
and field maple.

“Here’s hawthorn”,
she dangles the whip at its root.
“Don’t touch the thorns”
she warns,
her fingers soft as flowers.

“Now crab apple” I order,
taking off my jacket,
“Crab apple” she repeats
turning to fetch it,
and knowing I can trust her

I set to digging,
My blade opening, slicing room.
She is back, brandishing her bare gift
and into the earth
she posts it.

The light dies
But she does not leave my side
fetching me whips,
admiring our lines,
“One day this hedge will be very big.”

She is four in December
and needs my help putting on her gloves
but her mind is quick, already
she knows we are beginning abundance,
that this is something natural.

II

The next morning, while I am dressing
the scratches on my hands
I spy her through a window,
moving purposefully into the garden.
She has breached the cold to fetch my jacket
lying by our row of sticks.
Now she has lifted it wet off the ground,
now she is bearing it in her white hands,
talking to herself
as she shrugs it across the lawn.
In the kitchen she is waiting,
holding out my jacket,
anxious it is returned to me,
and that I know how it came to be
wet and crumpled in her hands,
conscious of something new in what she understands.
“I saw it first so I went out to get it”.

III

Spring’s clockwork comfort draws out the whips,
budding red and green, ticking down their roots,
the hawthorn’s filigree curls dark into summer,
maple leaves spot
my new grass with shade,
the wild rose corkscrews adventurers,
the dog wood dogs wood.

A simple planter
without magic,
inconstant
but anxious to help
I monitor the weather,
hose water,
tug out weeds and nettles.
“Keep going” I mutter through May and June.
“Keep growing.”

One July morning I can smell autumn coming,
and everything becomes more urgent. I imagine
what their bare bones will look like in November,
one year on,
the girl and I will stand before our row of sticks and see
everything a year older.

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