An island garden

The NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a poem about a small but important place. This is a haibun about a short-lived, tiny project.



The ranks of slender metal posts along the kerb stop street parking. When you unscrew the top, they make ashtrays for the street-smoking residents. He filled a dozen of the posts with earth, the boy on the second floor, and planted them with seeds—sweet pea, nasturtium and cornflower. Because he hasn’t got a garden.

Every day I walk this street, past the posts on either side, and I have watched the seeds sprout and push above the narrow edge, leaves uncurling, bright and green.


In poor earth they thrust,

any shoots, roots fed enough—

sun draws them higher.


There were twelve at first, tiny gardens bounded by a rim of dark metal, a small world raising a miniature forest of leaves. Healthy little plants they were, spreading broad leaves to catch the afternoon sun. The kids dug some out; some are once again ashtrays. Only one is left, the leaves a little weary, a little scared at the desert around them.

Every day I pass and wonder if the last island of life will have been submerged in a sea of dog ends, or grubbed out by careless, idle fingers. It was such a splendid idea, snuffed out by ignorance and the wilful destruction of potential beauty.


Crushed beneath the weight

of ignorance life dies back—

cold spring, no summer.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

9 thoughts on “An island garden”

    1. I hope he won’t. I wondered what he was doing when I first saw him with a spoon and a box of earth, peering into these posts. Obviously some people think an ashtray is more important than flowers.

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