Marigold, chrysanthemum sprawl
across the garden, smelling like some acrid
medicine when you tear the stems, but the stink
of ivy’s worse, like air inside a rotting
log. A plant so tough should cure your worst
disease. You’ve burned your hand? Try ivy
as a poultice, leaves across your blisters
tied with the stringy roots until, despairing,
the burns agree to heal.

Years ago, two kids with spray paint spread
their names around West Philly – CORNBREAD
and EARL in tall black letters on blank walls.
and abandoned cars. They’re still there, peeling
under thick swathes of ivy, the best graffiti
artist, scribbling its thin green name across
the corrugated steel, the raddled stucco
writing it again, larger, dark to lime-green
at the growing end, practicing, making it
big and evergreen and tough.

Deborah Burnham teaches English and writing at Penn, gardens in Powelton Village, walks along the Schuylkill, and hopes to complete her Viet-Nam-era novel before the leaves come out.

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