Photo by Gayatri Malhotra / Unsplash

Next Year

Poetry Aug 17, 2023

by Katie Chicquette

I’m going to seed my lawn with soft, sweet clover—
what’s left of it anyway, because next year I plan
to steal my lawn back bit by bit from my lawnmower
and British Petroleum and the epitaphs of my great-grandchildren;                             sorry lawn, you’re about to become hostas and clover and mulch,                           and no, I am not actually sorry at all.

Next year, I’m going to plant so many different kinds                                                     of basil right outside my door that my fears
will choke on their spicy cloud of airy joy,
and I will buy not a few but a whole shelf                                                                         of the impatiens at Aldi marked down to $2                                                           because the refrigerated truck got caught
in a traffic jam outside Chicago, and they wilted
in a way that tricks the uninitiated into thinking                                                         they are dead when they are just very, very thirsty.                                                          

Next year I will paint a single wall dark teal                                                                     and wonder if this is the right gold velvet                                                                         to keep it company and I will not ask                                                                               for anyone else’s opinion

I will spray paint old porch lights, and                                                                   watercolor geometric shapes, and paint my name                                                       with a dollar store sparkler, even if I spend
the 4th of July alone.

Next year, I’ll have to write new mental narratives                                                       for the noises in the night, because I’ll only
be able to blame them on my children
half the time. I’ll write grocery lists for meals                                                                    I always meant to make that only suited me,                                                                 I’ll grate fresh ginger and saute portabellas                                                                  and as I cook I’ll sing at the top of my lungs                                                                     instead of the bottom. I’ll write journal entries                                                                 in invisible ink so I won’t be tempted to relive                                                               my mourning — or my indecision.

Next year, I’m sure I will still wear my sadness                                                             like a thick, heavy blanket, but next year,
I will remember that’s all it is, and shrug
it off. But because I am not some hardened,                                                         slovenly beast, I won’t just leave it there;                                                                            I’ll pick it up, fold it with care, set it to the side—
I won’t pretend my grief isn’t real, every tear-track                                                           a stitch in this long and lonely time. But
what a relief it will be to know that I can sometimes                                                     set it to the side. To know that I didn’t need it
as a shroud because I was dead—I was just very,                                                         very thirsty.

Katie teaches English in an alternative high school in Appleton, WI. Her poems appear in Riggwelter, Torrid, Portage, WI People & Ideas, Brain Mill Press: Voices, Bramble, and elsewhere; a few have contest nods or Pushcart nomination. Poetry appeared on her doorstep in her late 30s, huffing, “I’ve been chasing you since you were 19—thank God you finally stopped running!”