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The Garden

The Last Thing

The Garden

by Dorianne Laux

We were talking about poetry.

We were talking about nuclear war.

She said she couldn’t write about it

because she couldn’t imagine it.

I said it was simple. Imagine

this doorknob is the last thing

you will see in this world.

Imagine you happen to be standing

at the door when you look down, about

to grasp the knob, your fingers 

curled toward it, the doorknob old

and black with oil from being turned

so often in your hand, cranky

with rust and grease from the kitchen.

Imagine it happens this quickly, before

you have time to think of anything else;

your kids, your own life, what it will mean.

You reach for the knob and the window

flares white, though you see it only 

from the corner of your eye because

you’re looking at the knob, intent

on opening the back door to the patch

of sunlight on the porch, that garden

spread below the stairs and the single

tomato you might pick for a salad.

But when the flash comes you haven’t 

thought that far ahead. It is only 

the simple desire to move into the sun

that possesses you. The thought

of the garden, that tomato, would have

come after you had taken the knob

in your hand, just beginning to twist it,

and when the window turns white

you are only about to touch it,

preparing to open the door.