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Irene Sherlock


I unwind the hose, walk the garden beds

considering who to favor—who not—

pass the thirsty hellebore, shriveled ferns.

Sorry, I say, seeing the burnt tongues

of pleading day lilies. Even the hearty

peonies are bent in defeat.

I stop at the yellow columbine.

Bloomed once, set to bloom again.

I water the flower’s petal face

and see, from the corner of my eye,

a small animal, maybe a rabbit,

sprint toward the evergreens.

My glasses inside, the blurry creature

seems to hover under the hemlock.

When my grandson was young,

I read to him in his Bronx bedroom.

Jake would say “I love you,”

but his image of me blurred

between visits. He’s grown now,

in a different time zone. We text,

but when was the last time

I heard his voice?

I search the sky for rain clouds,

find none, guide the heavy hose

back onto its reel, turning the crank

till the whole is rolled. I straighten,

winded, survey the garden.

Why did I think I could keep all this alive?

The rabbit, nearly gone from memory,

lingers somewhere in the yard.

My watered columbine lifts,

remembering itself.

Sky brushed dark,

I turn for the house, but stop

to notice a patch of succulents,

who seem to want for nothing

in this evening’s parched air.

What it’s like to be depressed

I was twenty-one, waitressing,

living on bran muffins and black coffee,

smoking one cigarette after another,

in love with a man who took my tips

and sat up nights in our apartment

doing lines of cocaine with his friends.

After I blacked out at a party, my boyfriend

left me alone to sleep it off on a stranger’s mattress.

You really know how to enjoy yourself,

he said when I got home. The next day

I made an appointment at the local mental health clinic.

The director who interviewed me

smoked one cigarette after another. I told him

about the blackout, my insomnia, eating disorder,

how I wanted to change my life

but didn’t know how. Did he think I was crazy?

Not crazy enough?

I started crying. He held up his hand.

What do you think therapy is about?

I stared at him.

It’s about power, not happiness, he said.

I had no idea what he meant but nodded sure, okay.


Irene Sherlock is a dual-licensed marriage and family therapist and alcohol and drug counselor who lives and practices in Danbury, CT. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Her poems, essays and short stories have been published in Alimentum, Chautauqua Literary Journal, Cloven Sphere, Cream City Review, Connecticut Review, Dos Passos Review, Eclipse, Fairfield Review, Intima, Melusine, Miranda Magazine, Poem-memoir-story, Poet Lore, Poetry Motel, Primavera, Roux, Runes, Slipstream, Tar Wolf Review, The New York Times, White Pelican Review and in several anthologies. A chapbook of her poems, Equinox, was published in 2010 by Finishing Line Press.


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