BISMARCK AND THE GARDENER
In the lukewarm water I feel
the heavy summer heat.
It’s as if I’m sweating
under my wet, waxy hair.
The cicadas outside
sound like a conspiracy.
In the bath today I remember
visiting Leon the boy with the big ears
when I was 11.
Leon was a spoiled only child in a big house
with a swimming pool and a tennis court
and a bunch of albums and a granny
who was always home
to serve us cookies and cold drinks
when we listened to Wham or Michael Jackson.
On the tennis court
Leon always beat me with ease
until one day I won a set.
Leon couldn’t handle this.
He threw his tennis racket on the ground
and ran inside.
I stood waiting uncertainly
on the blazing tennis court.
The kitchen screen door clapped shut after him.
The cicadas were going crazy.
Bismarck, their giant Rottweiler –
a growling, bad-tempered, real son-of-a bitch –
was between me and the back door.
I was dead scared of Bismarck.
He’d once tried to bite me.
I had nightmares about him –
he always came at me from behind.
By the time I heard the growl
it was too late.
His jaws encompassed my rib-cage easily.
His teeth sank into my flesh
like boots into mud.
He picked me up in his mouth –
I could see my tennis trainers hopelessly
darting through the air.
I was too afraid to scream.
While I was being scared of Bismarck,
the black gardener smiled at me
Leon had once told me
how he liked to stalk the gardener
when he was mowing the lawns,
and shoot him with his pellet gun.
I could never understand why
the gardener was so friendly to me.
Could a person see the difference
between Leon and
I wondered if the gardener
was as afraid of Bismarck as I was;
and did he hate Leon
as I would have hated him
if I had been the gardener?
It did not seem unlikely to me
that the gardener might one day stab
Leon through with his garden fork.
The summer heat and my fear
turned his white smile
into a hateful grin.
The blood in my ears
was louder than the cicadas.
I felt sick and dizzy.
No one came to help,
because no one was aware of any danger.
I waved in a friendly way to the gardener…
If I’m so afraid inside
and afraid outside
as today floating in the water
I won’t know how to get out.
Outside Bismarck patrols the earth.
Inside smiles the gardener,