Poem of the Week | July 13, 2020
Benjamin Garcia “Keeping Home”
This week’s Poem of the Week is “Keeping Home” by Benjamin Garcia!
Benjamin Garcia’s first collection, THROWN IN THE THROAT (Milkweed Editions, August 2020), was selected by Kazim Ali for the 2019 National Poetry Series. He works as a Sexual Health and Harm Reduction Educator throughout the Finger Lakes region of New York. His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in: AGNI, American Poetry Review, Foglifter, Kenyon Review, and New England Review. To learn more, find him online: @bengarciapoet or benjamingarciapoet.com
Together, we almost compete with the chores
of keeping home. But this isn’t what we intended
years ago when we said to each other “you complete me.”
We got monkey’s pawed in love, you see.
Well, mostly you. You have a large
heart. It sounds sweet unless it’s
a doctor who says it. Your cardiologist said “at least
we can rule out pregnancy,” you said “unless
we count the agita, ulcer, kidney stone, take
your pick. This sucks. We’re falling apart
growing old together.” Somewhere between
the aisle with orthopedic inserts and the one with
hemorrhoid cream, fine, my love, I see what you mean.
But we are growing old, and we are growing
together, like the wild vine along our fence
that, nameless, appeared to have been planted
overnight, when in truth it fed on our neglect,
crept, link by link, until it was the only thing,
link by link, holding the fence together. And, petty,
when the neighbors called it a nuisance, we
watered it—in spite of inedible berries, despite it
choking out the lilacs. We called it “kind of pretty.”
In this hotter than normal June, on this hotter than
normal planet, I’ll pull the weeds like electrical plugs,
and if I croak from heat stroke, say I was your one and only
monkey’s paw. You mow the lawn and gut the gutters and
maybe at your eulogy I’ll say he had the largest heart.
“Keeping Home” is one of the last poems I wrote for my new collection, THROWN IN THE THROAT. This poem came after doing yard work with my own partner for what felt like the 30th time that summer. We can barely keep up with the work our home requires now, I thought. How will we keep up with this work once we’re older? Just to have a body felt vulnerable. On the other hand, to love felt like a choice in being vulnerable.
So I wanted to show the tenderness between two people who really know each other—the inside jokes, the quirks, the teasing, the effort required in a lasting relationship. Environmental health and disillusionment with the American Dream crept in without my knowledge. I didn’t understand why these ideas belonged in a love poem. But what else can you do when the world is falling apart if not love more fiercely?
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