Papo would water the roses
with a green hose in the late afternoon.
As the sun set on the Pacific Coast,
the reflection glistened in the drops of water
sprayed from the thumbed-down thick stream.
Barefoot on wet concrete, I danced in the mist
that he sprayed for me. He smiled but
never spoke. He tended the garden,
shoveled, and planted, while Yaya
cut and cooked inside the house.
His sweat saturated the earth.
It thrived and made a garden of
plums, figs, loquats, apricots,
grapes, artichokes, blackberries,
apples, lemons, and roses.
To the dirt she added
the remains of her day:
egg shells, tomato skins,
orange peels, onion layers,
smeared spots of moldy cheese.
His right boot pressing down on the dull-bladed
shovel to crack the earth, I heard grainy
scratches of wet dirt and rocks against metal as
Papo dug holes by each rose bush.
Then Yaya crept from the kitchen
into the garden. She hunched over
and emptied the crinkled and wet, plastic
vegetable bags filled with her garbage—
cucumber ends and burnt toast,
carrot tops and potato skins,
their brown fermented juices flowing
through the wrinkly channels of the bag,
Yaya in the house, Papo mixed in the dirt
and covered the holes without a word.
I had never smelled a sweeter rose
than those that came from Lomita Street.
After he died, the petals dropped and the fruit
became heavy, rotting at the foot of each tree.
Yaya moved away. She now waters the land
and grows nectarines, lemons, grapes, and—
I never knew she didn’t need him to grow things.
Except maybe to grow my aunt and
my mother in her belly.