Valerie Sopher

in the Botanical Garden, it’s safe
     from people, if you choose the right path
there is an illegal amount of beauty here
    hills fold into the canyon, disappearing
         into a distant gauze-wrapped city
in the Garden of Old Roses, a dormant flower misses
     its second bloom, rivulets run into Strawberry Creek
on the ridge top, buzz cut trees trimmed by the wind
   amid this enchantment
       loneliness clings like lichen

confused blooms stop opening on a day
     that got lost in winter and found spring
unsafe under a cloudless sky
     forty days without rain
only the Cloud Forest holds
    the illusion of water  

too many people pass too close
    too many unmasked, too many
        conversations not about plants
a man stops to catch his breath
   this is a place for the older, not the elderly
        when did I become one and how long until
I will be the other, unable to manage
   deep, uneven steps on winding paths
        to beckoning benches

today is my birthday
    I face the conundrum
      of how to celebrate myself
        a Monkey Puzzle Tree day
so I come here, on a morning
   too early for shadows and scents
       from blooms just beginning
   if you ask me what I wish for
        I wish for rain

years ago a magician asked me to pick
    from the fanned deck he held out
       a card that would show the age
          I would live to
I chose a number so far in the future
   it was one I could live with
        keep it a secret or you’ll spoil the trick

now that number is a touchable age
  my earth has tilted on its axis
      and I face the moon
when it shifts again and the magician holds up
    a card – is this the number you picked?
I hope to say it doesn’t matter
   because I knew the Queen of Hearts
        danced with the Jack of Diamonds

as I leave the garden, throaty toads sing
    in reeds mired in velvet pond scum
hesitation hides in the Cactus Garden,
    spiky and dangerous
I reach one last bench, linger
     watch the light play tricks
         on mirrored leaves
             in the deepening sun

About the Author

Valerie Sopher lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is grateful to Caustic Frolic Slant, Wingless Dreamer (contest winner), Canary and Prometheus Dreaming for publishing her work.