The ghosts didn’t sleep, in the garden,
where a woman taught me about tomatoes.
I used to hate them. Something unsettling about
their flesh. The goopy innards,
wet seeds, a color that looked sick. Last summer,
I learned about sungolds. Bright, sweet
orange globes, a little bigger than grapes.
Last summer, I dedicated myself to pleasure. I drove
down the highway, walled in by green.
There is happiness, and there is feeling good
inside a body. Both, now, a ghostlike quality.
First, I learned the rocks in the Wissahickon
glittered in the dirt, and then I learned
their name: schist. First, I named what moved
inside me animal, and then I opened its cage.
As though committed to proving myself
wrong, I lay in the sun and watched sweat gather
in the crooks of my elbows. I could sleep
in another bed, all night long, and call it
pleasure. What, in the end, does one do
with what one proves. The ghost
in the house was me. She gathered tomatoes
in the garden. When the tomatoes are in bloom
the plants are coated in sticky, yellow pollen.
It gets on everything. A flower becomes,
and this, perhaps, is obvious, a fruit. The tall
stalks of garlic become a fragrant field,
hiding the back of the garden from the road.
It felt good to feel pleasure, almost free,
in sunlight, the white flowers becoming
strawberries, pale green, the size of thumbs.
You can eat the flowers, but you shouldn’t.
They are on their way to becoming
something else. My neighbor, on Saturdays,
gives out boxes of produce for free. I don’t
know her, but she hollers at me, from my porch
across the street where I pretend to read,
listen as the neighbors discuss beetles
that have eaten all their flowers. I don’t have to be
what ghosts me. I invite sadness, who blossoms,
blooms, and fruits in one sweet season.
The gold light settles on the beach, where I don’t
go, the bay spitting up an iridescent fish
on the shore where I don’t come to its rescue.
The fish is not a ghost. The past is not what
haunts, but the future, rippling out
like water, briny and dark green. My friends,
unsleeping, in a distant city. It is called a pool,
when one collects resources with others, when water
gathers in a place. To practice pleasure,
I practice opening my palms, a gesture of
willingness to receive. It is hard, for me, to accept
the bundles of lettuce I feel I haven’t earned.
It is hard to unspool what it means to earn
anything: sunlight, water, sand, schist,
tomato, garlic, green. A lagoon
is water that has been enclosed by land.
A lacuna is a gap in text, or a cavity or depression
in bone, from the same root as lagoon:
lake, or pool. I don’t know why
I am telling you what you can
already know, just from imagining, here,
a body of water, and here, a text
orbiting a hole. I speak of summer
as though it were a lagoon, and me
a hole. The garden, across the city, blooms
without me. I am trying not to become
Stephanie Cawley is a poet in Philadelphia. She is the author of My Heart But Not My Heart, winner of the Slope Book Prize chosen by Solmaz Sharif, and the chapbook A Wilderness from Gazing Grain Press. Her poems and other writing appear in DIAGRAM, The Fanzine, TYPO, and West Branch, among other places. Her next book Animal Mineral will be out from YesYes Books in 2022. More at stephaniecawley.com.