Gardens, Passover

The first seventy-degree April day takes you around the waist
and because you are suddenly too warm in your sweater
not only do you pull it off with annoyance, but you never
want to see it again, because in those seconds it conveys your
lack of vision, your foolish decisions, and you actually feel
sheepish, as though conservative weather predictions
cast an affront against the whole earth turning, a riff on
the Day of Atonement’s notion of everyone taking a twist
for the better all at once, so that the entire body of people
has a chance against the worse parts of our nature, à la
a massive march on a spiritual Washington, the capital
of human governance, or an entire population putting their back
to the cosmic wheel to guide the leaning soul aright. But
this season’s holiday has more to do with the system of the locks
on the Mississippi, the footsteps painted on the dance room floor,
the recognition that getting from the here of slavery

to the there of making foolish decisions on our own
requires you say this first, do this second, eat this third,
sing that fourth, read this fifth, up to fifteen, or forty years
whenever your progress sets you down in the right place
which might be today in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
where orange tulip petals glow like flashlight hoods and the wooden
candelabra of a magnolia lifts two thousand ivory votives
which seem to light the sky to a very, very blue, while the six-
week processional of cherry blossoms incite a pilgrimage
to these transient studios — some trees producing white blooms
in downy, cupped fists, and others, dangling pink fingerprints
the breeze touches to your bare arms when you peel off
your sweater, an act which may raise your standards and soften your heart
to your own mistakes, instructions given by the earth’s angle
on the whole orbit, the first right thing to do as a free person.

Jessica Greenbaum’s first poetry collection, Inventing Difficulty, was the winner of the 1998 Gerald Cable Book Award. She is the poetry editor for upstreet.