Henry Lee Remembers Grandmother’s Garden

Trigger Warning: This poem, from the viewpoint of a serial killer, is the creepiest thing I’ve ever written. After reading it, my wife said “I’m not sure I want to share a bed with the man who wrote this.”

Henry Lee Remembers Grandmother’s Garden

I smile and recall the sparrows,
wings separated from their torsos
and nailed to the cedar fence

like so many unachieved desires,
an occasional feather ruffling
in the breeze, simulating flight,

their power now all mine to savor.
Art begins in the heart’s
crotch, compresses through the ribcage

and up the vertebrae, drills through
the skull, directly behind the eyes,
emerging as idea, as will or compulsion.

Or release. I loved those birds,
pulling them apart, arranging their
pieces by odor. How, rising from

dirty little mounds, their outstretched
feet squeezed the air from my
lungs, sharp bursts scattering

into the sun’s evening gore. I have
attained no higher state in the years
since that day. While the flies and one

lone wasp buzzed happily around me,
proof that wings claim neither heaven
nor earth, that godness lies within,

I lay there in the splendor
of the torn and detached, among
heads and crops, my fingers caked

black and stiff, wondering which
treasures, what other
sweetness the week would bring.

* * *

“Henry Lee Remembers Grandmother’s Garden” first appeared in Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art in February 2017. I’m grateful for editors Catherine Strisik and Veronica Golos for featuring my work in their journal.

I’d read an article on what not to write about – reminiscences of grandmothers, gardens, birds and so forth – and couldn’t resist inserting those elements into a poem. The editor who wrote the article rejected an earlier draft of the poem…

40 thoughts on “Henry Lee Remembers Grandmother’s Garden

  1. Poetry is free to cover anything and I think ultimately has a responsibility to tackle everything. I’ve just posted a poem on my own blog which my wife has complained about (too downbeat) so I feel a sense of solidarity coming on Robert!

    Liked by 1 person

      • I always wonder why, and with what limited view, so many people turn away from an exploration of the darker ever-present parts of imagination. Or mistake fictitious imagination as a revealing of the actual personality of the writer. It is a very common trait in ‘comments’, and in all evaluation of the arts by the unsophisticated. For of course art is only to be about the pleasant and the uplifting, the appeasing and the ‘nice’. It is fine, though, and ‘entertainment’ to stare for hours with all the family at a screen where there is endless repetition of misery and violence, mock drama and hyperbole.
        We are largely a sorry and confused species, and will not survive much longer if we do not acknowledge our paradoxical depths.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Very evocative writing. It’s not easy to write something that’s completely against your nature. Also, I reject the opinion you shouldn’t write about those subjects. Seems rather arrogant to hold that opinion. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We need an alternative to “Like” for this one. Powerfully imagined. Deeply creepy. I can relate to your wife’s comment, though I’m going to remain your friend, but only because we have never met, and live far from each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very artful piece of written work..

    i was expecting something a little more gore…

    When i walk throughout the woods in Stanley Park where i like to get very high… i sometimes come across a spot where something happen sometime back.. How do i know this because i feel both sides of the incident, the pain of the victim an the please of the perpetrate…

    i don’t always put my senses out, but something catches my mind, like any kid, i dig right in….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This immediately made me think of Jesus on the cross…too much fire and brimstone in my childhood churchgoing perhaps…the sparrow imagery is especially effective. And a symbol of Christ too I think. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I did not like the poem it was cruel to the core
    I kept reading as it got gruesome and sore
    lastly I was thankful it was over and not a bore
    I think you should try to become a light heart lover
    and not the creepy man with a bad evil core

    Liked by 2 people

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