Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Gardener

These poems almost always come to me as I walk, or are inspired by something I've seen while out walking. In this case, both. Sometime last year, walking past an assisted living facility, I saw the man described in this poem. Then, just this morning, he came back to my thoughts complete with a story to tell, so I tell it here.

There is this man
who lives in the assisted
living facility, the one
on State Street, across from
the closed up church
with the no trespassing sign
on the big wooden doors
and the pigeons settled
and cooing in the loft
of the bell-less steeple,

and this man, this man
once kept a garden,
this man and his wife,
in their back yard,
the most beautiful
garden, with big red
tomatoes to die for,
snap peas and green peppers,
lettuce and kale and parsley,
and sweet strawberries
like red jewels,

and this man’s wife
through all the years
would bring him lemonade
and she’d call him dear
as he weeded on his hands
and knees, down among
the string beans,

as he built soil,
as he dug and hauled
and pruned and grafted,
as he whistled, as he hummed,
as he strode from tool shed
to garden to tool shed
again, again, again,
from season to season,
from year to year,

and she’d say--he
would always remember
her saying--this will be
a salad for the ages.

He never dreamed
of a world without her,
or a world without
a garden to tend
and make prosper.

Sometimes, he palms
the butter knife from
the breakfast commons,
and drops it in his pocket,

and later can be found
out on the treeless plaza
among the benches and
the pigeons, down
on his hands and knees again,
scratching up the little weeds
that grow between the bricks.

And on his face you’ll see
anger and perseverance and shame,
for they have taken his tools,
his tools are gone, and they
will come for him soon
he knows, they will come
for him, though his work
is not yet done.


Evelyn said...

Having watched our parents age with their own levels of frustration, this was especially poignant. Kudos....

Bob said...

Thanks, Evelyn!

nance marie said...

you have pained a picture
that it can see
and almost touch.