More information on the topics discussed below can be found on the Internet!

Custom Search

Friday, June 23, 2017

Poem: Double Dig

This is my second published work. It first appeared in the Spring-Summer 2017 edition of Word Fountain, the Literary Magazine of the Osterhout Free Library (https://wordfountain.net/) Some thoughts and background follow the poem.

Double Dig

Break the surface with the pitchfork
shave off the sod with the spade
Five feet wide, fifteen feet long

Dig out the first row
one foot down, one foot long
put it in the wheelbarrow

Add compost to the trench
loosen the soil with the fork
try not to think about you

Dig out the second row
toss it into the first trench
incorporate air into the bed
increase porosity, improve drainage
think about the work

and not about all those years
all those "I love you"s
work the soil
the roots will dig even deeper
the weeds will pull out easier
focus on the work

not on all those hours, all those nights
the long drives, the moving van
study sessions and open mics
the sun is hot, halfway done
keep the rows even or the last one will be too big

Keep digging. Keep moving.
There will be rest after the work is done
after the soil from the wheelbarrow is tipped into the last trench
after the excess air is squeezed out with the digging board

I remember every word of every story
every line of every poem

Tomorrow the seedlings will go in
the seeds will be planted
but now, dig the soil
double dig, two layers down

Dig the garden, and forget about you
there will be time for remembering later


*********************************

This was, in a sense, a poem that wrote itself.

I've long wanted to do a piece on the subject of gardening as violence. Gardening is an extremely violent act. To start a garden you must first kill whatever is already growing in the place you want to garden: cut down trees, tear out vines, rip up or smother sod. Then you break the soil and work it into a condition ready for planting. Sometimes this just involves digging or doing a double-dig, as described in the poem, a back-breaking but ultimately rewarding technique. Many times this is interrupted by the need to hack away at roots or pry out boulders. In addition to breaking the soil, you should also amend it by adding compost - dead and rotted once-living things. Once the garden is dug, the rest is fairly easy - for a vegetable garden, anyway. Whoever wrote "I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden" must never have tried their hand at rose gardening, which involves all of the above plus flesh (and clothing) -ripping thorns.

I already had posted a poem of decomposition and decay making compost ("Coffee for Roses," here), so that was not eligible for submission. I decided to focus instead on the act of digging the garden. But then what? Would I use it as a metaphor for digging into the past to bring forth the future? Maybe a meditation on memories of past gardens conjured up? My grandmother's garden, or my first garden in Newark, Delaware? The garden I was digging as the siege at Waco was taking place? Or the one I was working on during the Oklahoma City Bombing?

I decided to do a poem about the things you think about when you are digging a garden. OK, fine, what are those? It was still too early to dig a garden, so I would have to imagine. I put myself in a meditative state and imagined all the actions needed to dig the garden: gather the tools, get the digging board., roll out the wheelbarrow, loosen the soil, begin the digging. The repetitive motions, always kept to a minimum to reduce exertion. Dig out the first row, move the soil to a wheelbarrow, loosen the second layer down, work in the compost. What am I thinking of?

Thoughts of past gardens, green beans in my grandmother's garden, a compound in flames, a building pancaking down on top of a nursery, her...

Wait, what?

Her. I was thinking of her.

Not mine. Never mine. But she was my muse. I loved her intensely, even though she never gave a damn about me, except for how she could use me, what I could do for her. Very nearly an imaginary creature from the first time I came across her personal ad online to the time that I met her in person, almost entirely by accident, a year later. She disappeared a year after that, and I brought her back a year later, and began two years of doing things together, of being there for her, until I outlived my usefulness.

No.

I had already written so much about her. For her. Inspired by her. Even inspired by the way she cut me off in the end. Couldn't I just write something that wasn't about her?

I tried to put her out of my mind. Refocus. What else would I be thinking about?

No good. Now I wasn't just thinking about her, I was thinking about not thinking about her, which was the same as thinking about thinking about her. The more I tried not to think about her, the more she intruded on my thoughts. Our entire history rolled past me, over and over again: that first glimpse of her in-between presentations on fiction and non-fiction writing, the study sessions at Starbucks, the open mics, driving a moving truck for her, hours spent shopping or just driving her around, holding her hand because someone had made her feel miserable, hours spent at the hospital as her mother lay dying, the way she ended it all, the way there had never really been anything to end all along.

So was the poem ruined? Was it a lost cause?

No. If she was the thing I was thinking about when I tried to imagine what I'd think about while gardening, then that's where the poem would go, too.

I wrote down the lines as quickly as I could, trying not to let the sense of intrusion on my thoughts slip away like a bad dream. I polished it and edited it, then submitted it for consideration. A few weeks later I learned it had been accepted.

Will this be the last poem about her, or inspired by her, or influenced by her? We'll see.

I really doubt it, though. 



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Cherries, 2017

First cherry fruits begin to ripen: June 1

All cherries stripped from tree by birds: Sometime after 10:35 AM, June 14

For the record, they were delicious.

NOTE FOR NEXT YEAR: Do not put out bird seed in second week of June, or toss out anything that will attract birds. Rather than satisfying the birds, such things only attract hordes of hungry birds.