“Field Notes (for J.)” by Heather Ann Schmidt


I walked in the garden this morning
and the carrots were lifting their purple heads
from the earth and I picked the tender young herbs.
When I left, my hands had the scent of sweet basil and tomato leaves,
just like this paper that I write to you on.

There was a hummingbird in the garage, too,
and he stayed even though the door was wide open.
If he stopped, I could have covered him with the palm of my hand.
I looked in his black eyes.
It was a gift.

I wanted to collect these notes from my day,
because you are so far away.
Many pages, there are so many pages.

I am seventeen, again with my notebook and my headphones
writing everything down.

Can you hear the music?
Can you hear the sound of my footsteps
in the garden?

I know you are here because we are connected by this paper,
these words.
If I could sing them, I would, so you could hear
the rising and falling of my voice.

Some people need to open the train windows
so they can hear countries pass by--
from Budapest to Vienna
and once they arrive,
they stand in the middle of Saint Petersburg,
the bottoms of their shoes wet from the midnight rain
and they mutter I am finally, here.

Some people need to stand on the top of a hill,
goldenrod and milkweed at their ankles.
They are children again when they stand
in the same place they did at ten.
The wind has held their secrets in place,
everything is still.

I need to move along the edge of the Earth.
I need to share my words with you
because if I don't they will overflow
until I cannot carry them to my next destination.

I need to move along the edge of my life
and run my hand along the fence lines
that scallop up and down, smooth and rough.
It is all mixed up and beautiful.

I need your hand to move along the edge
of my words on this paper.