Pruning the Fern SHEILA SQUILLANTE
The Boston fern hangs in the front porch the first summer my family lives in Pittsburgh. I buy it at Lowe’s after noticing its pretty sisters in the doorways of neighboring houses. Calm and elegant, it turns slow circles in the breeze, against the dark brick, next to prim white impatiens and the leggy pink petunias that were my father’s favorite. Through the hottest months, I care for it along with the other new plants in my new yard. Stella D’Oro lilies and giant sunflowers obscuring the house’s crumbly foundation. Bearded iris that sends up just one, tall spike so purple it’s almost black. I imagine the way this one plant will spread in years to come if we let it. If we stay in this house long enough to see it. Every morning, before the strongest sun, I go to my plants—I can’t yet call them a “garden”—with watering can and confidence. I spray garlic and cayenne to deter bugs. I deadhead the annuals and give everything a good, long drink. I snip the singed tips of the fern fronds that strayed in their growing from the porch’s shade. I tend to it and it grows gloriously green all summer long. But when the fall comes, I let it go. * I used to be a tender. I knew myself by this word and this action. People would ask 110
Fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and art selected for phoebe's Spring 2018 issue.