Grandma’s Garden

By Derek Otsuji

Every trip we made to Walmart,

Grandma would insist

on paying a necessary visit

to the nursery,

filling up her shopping cart

with potted plants—ground cover, mostly,

and assorted blooming perennials.


When we’d tactfully point out

she had too many plants,

she made no denials

but simply would reply,

“I love plants,” and, “It’s how I

choose to spend

my money”—a logic against

which we could not defend.


Still, we did not understand.


She had no other vice

save the diabetic’s appetite

for forbidden sweets denied,

the surreptitious cigarette

hastily snuffed out when

the grandchildren came into sight.


And the creeping foliage

flourished, crowding the garden’s

corners, dark as original sin,

rich leafage filling in

each leafless vacancy,

which her absence noticeably

amplifies, as it does

the dying flowers’ silent cry,

the perennial imperative—beautify.



Derek Otsuji teaches English at Honolulu Community College and works at Otsuji Farms, a family-run farmer’s market, on the weekends. His work is forthcoming or has appeared in The Alembic, Atlanta Review, The Chaffin Journal, descant, DUCTS, Eclectica, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Hawaii Review, Inscape, Kaimana: Literary Arts Hawaii, The Ledge, The MacGuffin, The Midwest Quarterly, The Monarch Review, Poet Lore, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Sierra Nevada Review, Verdad, Word Riot, and Yuan Yang. He won first place in the Eisteddfod Crown Competition; and has studied writing with the late Welsh poet Leslie Norris.


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