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

its ghost.

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 DIAGRAMThe FanzineTYPO, and West Branch, among other places. Her next book Animal Mineral will be out from YesYes Books in 2022. More at