Joannie Stangeland

Having Made My Beds
by Joannie Stangeland

Under March skies, palette shifting white to blue,
I arm with steel, rusty teeth, hack, attack the thickets—
no prince in search of kisses. From one stick—sucker—
grows a rose, cane and thorn

a bitter plenty, brief bud.

Oh, cloud of my neglect—fierce bluster surges
to there and here, battle for light, a tangle.

More is more.

I rooted rugosas, ramblers. More grew rampant, followed
blooms into my body under my skin, my tender, my night.
From that one vision, an empire.

And I no longer fit.


How my garden strays—wanton, beads from seed pods split,
spilt jewels lacing soil? A green ocean sinks,
wave after wave sucked from swells,

jetsam thrown in the bin.

Shoulders arched above the shed, giants through the roof
died and more grew over dead wood. This madness too much—
Have I given the ghost his due, given up?

Where is my creature?

I thought I’d tame these green beasts, train increase into blushing
lapdogs, tender pets, petals panting with summer’s drama.
I submit. Doubt

falls to my hand, another cut.


Saw bites limb, the fine dust another exposure.
Slow, my progress. The hummingbird zips the yard,

chides me from the lilac.

I reach, lean, grit my teeth, dead twigs like talons.

When canes leaf out it’s too late—thick wall without pattern,
shrubs knotting a net. Clouds occlude the sun, then leave,
light to dark. Work goes on,

the one sure thing.

Those years I wanted roses, and those I turned away, sick
of thorn bite, green riot—wait until they open.
Then the vision missed, lost in wilderness

grown too wild.


I thought the flowers proof, a history plotted, castle rapt,
saw my own stories flourish, summer’s heat a veil
and welcome, overstayed. Now I cut

a maze I can reckon,

hitch another hour to my hands, bag of stickers dragged.
These fierce cousins bite too feral for a bouquet
and still it hurts to clip the tender green,

blunt such vigor.

The sun runs short and thin, thyme dry in winter’s teeth,
some of the rosemary dead. I head through this year shorn
of fleece and swank, too drunk to drink,

too old to think it pretty.


Plant me no wild roses, no Nootka, musk,
no swollen thickets, star mantle pinking the hill.
Calm me with no omens blooming. Morning brings
its own prayers, potluck, from sky

to this plain table.

Done with thorn clouds billowing, my tastes have changed from wild,
from worse. Don’t bury me

under briars called romantic.

I’ll tell, keep leaves and other arts for other eyes,
fingers sharp with skill. Still, sun rules the sky.
I save a love for wild things,

and in the night, terrors.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 17, Issue 1.

Joannie StangelandJoannie Stangeland’s most recent book is Into the Rumored Spring from Ravenna Press. She’s also the author of two chapbooks, and her poems have appeared in Superstition Review, Tulane Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and other journals and anthologies. Joannie helps edit The Smoking Poet and Cascadia Review.

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