A Garden of Verse
The weekend before last, my fiancé and I made a trip out to our garden plot, and began the happy task of gardening. It was a lot of work breaking up the soil, picking out the weeds and whatnot that had accumulated over the winter, and getting the spring vegetables planted. We’ve got peas, kale, cabbage, bok choy, lettuce, radishes, and carrots. I always love the experience of gardening—the toil of it, the hope of produce down the road, the connection with nature. This, and the occasion of April being National Poetry Month, has inspired me to share some poems about gardening and nature. These two are from the Spring 2010 Issue of Ruminate (Issue 15: Borrowing):
Winter Garden, by Shanna Powlus Wheeler
Our coal bin full, the yard mottled with leaves like birds, the wind cutting sunlight, autumn here, winter coming—but we had a garden we meant to grow indoors, harvest in spring. While summer still cheered us with green leaves and late sunsets, and the garden—still a secret— seemed firmly rooted, nourished with our hope, the garden failed, withering in secret. We’ve cleared our hidden plot. We mourn and wait. The days shorten. Morning and evening chill us. Prayer tills the soil of our winter garden, hope again turns it.
Tu Wi’s Considers April Sunlight
, by Barbara Crooker
Some cook in the sky must be ladling it out, pouring liquid gold
from her copper saucepan, basting the meadow in hollandaise.
Where it drips: buttercups, dandelions, butter & eggs.
Where it splashes: forsythia, daffodils, tulips.
After this long hard winter, I reach out my arms,
lift my face to the sky.
Fry me, sunny side up,
on spring’s hot griddle; clarify me, anoint me,
in your lavish lemon light.
*** This one is from Knopf’s Poem-a-Day in honor of National Poetry Month. You can sign up to receive daily poems throughout the month of April here.
Transport, by Marie Ponsot
The rose, for all its behavior,
is smaller than the lifelove it stands for,
only briefly brightening,
and even its odor
only a metaphor.
Or so we suppose
just as we suppose the savior
we employ or see next door
is only some hired man
*** And finally, this one is a favorite of mine, which I read at the Open Mic Poetry Reading that Boulder Book Store hosted to kick off National Poetry Month. It is included in the new book, An Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry.
Digging, by Seamus Heaney
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.
Under my window a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade,
Just like his old man.
My grandfather could cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, digging down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.
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