A mulch is a layer of organic matter
used to control weeds,
and improve the fertility of the soil.
You will not find naked soil
in the wilderness.
I started cautiously: newspapers,
hay, a few magazines;
Robert Redford stared up
between the rhubarb and the lettuce.
Then one day, cleaning shelves,
I found some old love letters.
I’ve always burned them,
for the symbolism.
But the ashes, gray and dusty
as old passions,
would blow about the yard for days
stinging my eyes,
bitter on my tongue.
So I mulched them:
gave undying love to the tomatoes,
the memory of your gentle hands
to the squash.
It seemed to do them good,
and it taught me a whole new style
Now my garden is the best in the
and I mulch everything:
bills; check stubs;
dead kittens and baby chicks.
I seldom answer letters; I mulch them
with the plans I made
for children of my own,
photographs of places I’ve been
and a husband I had once;
as well as old bouquets
and an occasional unsatisfactory lover.
Nothing is wasted.
Strange plants push up among the corn,
leaves heavy with dark water,
but there are
“Mulch” by Linda Hasselstrom, from Dakota: Bones, Grass, Sky, published 2017 by Spoon River Poetry Press.
4 thoughts on ““Mulch” by Linda Hasselstrom”
I love this one, Christy! Thank you for sharing it! I love the idea that old love letters can be repurposed to help plants grow. And I love the lines “the memory of your gentle hands / to the squash.” So good! 🙂
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This poem really resonated with me, Mike. I’ve been doing a lot of “cleaning house” (both physically and spiritually), so I’ve been letting go of many things from my past … love letters, memories, resentments, etc…. ironically this coincides with spring planting and preparing flower beds… they go hand in hand as complementary therapies 🙂 so this poem was perfect. I love her work very much….I’d almost go to South Dakota. 🙂 🙂
Yes! This poem resonates with me for the same reasons, Christy. Spring really is the perfect time to clean house (physically and spiritually). I’ve let go of most of the physical things from my past that I need to let go of. Letting go of memories, resentments, etc., is more challenging, but I’m making progress.
I’m friends with Linda Hasselstrom on Facebook. I posted this poem on my Facebook page, and here’s her comment on my post:
Thanks, Mike Mirarchi. This is one of my all-time favorites of my own work, since it’s all absolutely true. This was my breakthrough poem, the one that made me realize– hey! This isn’t just sonnets and rhymes, this poetry business is life. I suspect you are also a poet.
Hasselstrom offers writing retreats at her ranch in South Dakota: http://www.windbreakhouse.com
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