Janice N. Harrington


A woman’s backyard and garden.

What she’s made, constant work:
!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!genius loci, hierophany, sanctum.

No, I have never spoken there with the unseen.

Blue mouse ears in a rusty metal pot.


She told me that she almost died once.  She wasn’t afraid of death.
It was just like falling asleep, just as peaceful.

The plastic rock beside the back gate said Learn to forgive.
The field stones, red quartzite, said nothing.

A monarch perched on the labia of a rose.


Maybe the voice of the unseen sounds like a hoe blade
chopping hard ground or a woman ripping out deep roots.

A yard? Because a body needs to stop sometime.!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10! (rest)
Do you ever feel weary and long for rest?!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!(rest)
A mind surrounded by beauty is a mind at rest.!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!    (rest)
A mind at rest goes back. She said, My mind goes back.!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!(rest)


A green bangle looped round an ankle of light.
Answer: garter snake.


No, not Eden, but a Black woman’s yard.
No, not Gethsemane, only a Black woman’s yard.

Psyche, soul, pneuma—but I like container best.
Imagine a yard as a container. But what contains, also restrains.
You free yourself or you’re never free.
She said that in her yard the world just went away.
Did she mean free?


!10!!10!!10!!10!!10! Without the fellowship, no beauty; without the steady purpose, no beauty; without
!10!!10!!10!!10!!10! trouble, and death, no beauty; without individual pleasure, freedom, and caprice, so far as
!10!!10!!10!!10!!10! may be consistent with the universal good, no beauty.
!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10!!10! —John Ruskin

Was Ruskin talking about a woman’s yard? A Black woman’s yard?

A woman in her garden with a hoe.
Chop, chop-a-row, chop.

As he said, No beauty without trouble, death.
or maybe it was No death without beauty and trouble?

A woman in her garden with a hoe.
Old Death come along, and she would not go.
Chop, chop-a-row, chop!

Memento vitae: rust-red blossoms,
sedum planted in a white-washed tire.

Janice N. Harrington’s latest book of poetry is Primitive: The Art and Life of Horace H. Pippin (BOA Editions). She teaches creative writing at the University of Illinois.