This poem came out of my Sunday morning gardening time. In the course of writing it, I figured out why I have never been a great gardener. It is not so much about production as creating a place, a place of life. Enjoy the poem and the photo of a Goldfinch drinking water from a dandelion leaf in my garden’s circle of asparagus.
A Poet’s Garden
The birds and I
gardened early this morning
in the soft light
before the bugs are up.
“Ee-oh-lay” the Wood Thrush told me.
The Rose-breasted Grosbeak,
thankful for our cracked corn,
sang to me,
“Cheer up,” “Cheer-a-lee,” “Cheer-ee-o.
Pairs of Cardinals
with the laser gun sound effect call
“puh, puh, puh,”
made me laugh.
There is not more grounded
than sitting in the dirt
and chicken manure mulch
yet the birds pull at my soul
clothes-pinning it to the tree tops
until I ripple in the breeze
and feel their calls in my throat.
Surely this is why I am not
a proper gardener
plunking seeds and starts
in vague groupings
more like an impressionistic painting
than an orderly, sense-making plots of rows.
The basil is near the uncaged tomatoes
because they both go with buffalo mozzarella.
The grasshoppers will eat the broccoli leaves,
so, I plant more of them
because grasshoppers add movement
to the bolt up-right green.
Potatoes and mint are together
to control the mint from wandering afar.
Squash is exiled to the far corner this year
after taking over the tomatoes and peppers last year.
Maybe I will give them something pretty to climb on.
Peas are new to me.
How will I resist eating them as shoots
especially as they live
in the partial shade
with the arugula and spinach.
The birds are invited into the garden,
an antique bird bowl
with delicate fairy dipping her toe
into the rain water.
They like to perch on my bench
a high spot to rest their weary hollow bones
between feedings of greedy cowbird chicks
transplanted in their lovely nests.
There is more to do in the garden.
After-all, that is what a garden is for
like a child’s sandbox
a place for the bees and I to light.
I leave the dandelions
for the bees and me
their smiling yellow
and ethereal seed globes.
The weeds with no purpose
must go, of course,
although they hang on
with tap roots and
We play, weeds and I
on our teeter-totter
sometimes up and sometimes down.
Despite this poet way of gardening,
the chicken manure
always delivers a bounty enough
for fresh, pickled, and frozen for winter soup.
Nowhere else is there better food
than that which comes from your hand and hoe
and silky rain.
The birds agree, “ee-oh-lay!”
*Bird call mnemonics from Standford.edu