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Aunt Louise listed her garden chores on a chart
in the laundry room next to the garage
where she tended her collection of bonsai.
In the careful work of repotting each tree,
she found and trimmed its feeding root.

How the roots are pruned affects the growth, 
reducing and slowing the process.
If the roots feather out, fine as lace,
the tree will not outgrow its container.

Some trees grow in ridges, with long lifelines. 
Some have trunks that swell smoothly. 
Consider the difference between juniper 
and pomegranate. No pine is like another. 

Light must enter the branches for buds 
to regenerate. Starting from the inside,
she removed old, dry foliage with a tweezer
and left new growth. Her practice 
benefited from her methodical nature.

It took two years for her to master 
the techniques of bonsai and the rest 
of her life to comprehend 
the unique language of each tree. 

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Anne Whitehouse

Anne Whitehouse’s most recent poetry collection is Outside From the Inside (Dos Madres Press, 2020), and her most recent chapbook is Escaping Lee Miller (Ethel Zine and Micro Press, 2021).

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