My husband stands under the lilac, clippers in hand,
squints up at bare twigs
among the heavy, spent blossoms.
He parts the heart-shaped leaves with his blade
before he nips the dry wood.

Surely, it’s the wrong season to be pruning,
just as the pendulous flowers rot,
exuding their last perfume.

Surely, there must be other chores
this cool June morning:
storm doors to be removed
so we can walk out into fresh grass,
the mowing, cutting back the burdocks
before they invade the new field,
sawing snow-bent saplings,
which will never straighten,
and will hang, grazing the ground, against all order,

but there he is, inside those dooryard lilacs –
overripe, aphrodisiac –
pruning away dead wood,
preparing for the next

Ellen McCulloch-Lovell

ELLEN MCCULLOCH-LOVELL lives and writes in Montpelier, VT. Her book, Gone, was issued by Janus Press in 2012. She has served as president of Marlboro College,Chief of Staff to Senator Patrick Leahy, and director of the Vermont Arts Council.

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