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
your’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.