Hollies by Joshua Jones

I hate their colonies of wasps. I hate 
their arrogant trunks and stems. I hate 
their living leaves like little cups of rage. 
I hate even their unseasonable dead, 
blown through the door like crisp rafts 
in a high wind. So when we moved in, I swore 

I’d kill the hollies, but, brushing the mulch 
aside, I found their secret roots reached
deeper than I thought into the ruddy clay, 
saw the long day of their destruction, filthy 
in full sun for four craters of dirt. I left their bed 
alone, and the grass runners slithered 

through the cracks of the brick 
planter until they threatened to choke 
the bushes out. I hoped they would. 
The next door neighbors, soon after, 
staked their “yard of the month” sign 
facing us so we could see the fruits of their 

landscaper’s labor. Then they complained, 
told the couple across the street that people 
like us have low standards. We must rent. 
I’d love to know what they’re hiding 
in their marigolds—the same mounds of crumpled 
yellow tissue paper that edged the beds my dad 

tended for hours, cross legged and shirtless, 
piling the cheatgrass and thistle sprouts 
in the trashcan lid beside him. I’d cut the lawn 
and try not to shower his back with the clippings 
or topple his plastic cup of tea, and when I finished 
he’d just have started the roses, working his fingers 

through the soil for every strand of alien root. 
Mower stashed, I hid inside with a coke trying 
to ignore Mom telling me again “He looks
like a fat little Buddha squat in the bushes.” 
And maybe he was, or tried to be, midway 
between the austerities of our company 

and his office’s luxurious quiet. If we’d left him 
out there one weekend longer, we’d have seen 
lotus petals rain from the sweetgum trees. 
He’d ordain the whole family, teaching 
us with a twirl of a peach blossom. I wish 
he had so I could go inside and watch 

the lawn invade. He so intimately knew 
that yard —when every flower needed care 
or any branch pruning, when to call his
mystery men to drop the heap of mulch 
at the driveway’s end and how
many days it took to disperse into

the garden’s contours, that when he left, 
it seemed the plants would shatter the house 
in rebellion. The roses, disobedient to his years 
of trellising, writhed between the fence slats. 
Evanescent mushrooms peeped behind 
every tree in sick pleasure. His hollies, 

tame hedges under his careful trimming, 
grew monstrous, eclipsing second story windows. 
As I jab at the earth with this fancy trowel 
that promised to be everything—shovel, hammer, 
ruler, and saw—I remind myself that mine 
are of a different variety, not the voracious 

trees that kept the light out and harbored 
a surfeit of skunks. To save these shrubs 
I hate, I’ll kill what grubs I find, pinching their 
middles till their neon insides burst 
from both ends. I’ll unweave the grass’s 
perverse tapestry with a curse for every thread. 

Joshua Jones received his MFA from UMass Boston and is pursuing a PhD at the University of North Texas. His poems have appeared in The Sow's Ear Poetry Review, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, and Salamander among others. He's the current book reviews editor for The American Literary Review.

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