Thursday, July 14, 2011

Poetry Thursday: Gardening Through the Generations

I've had gardening on the brain lately--you could argue that the Gospels haven't been about gardening,, but about something larger, and I'll admit it's metaphorical.  Still, the metaphors have made me think about literal gardens I have known.  It's summer, and I'm missing the abundance of produce that the upper 48 states should traditionally be enjoying right now.

My grandparents on my mom's side always had a garden, and even when my grandfather died, my grandmother planted a smaller version of the garden for many years.  I remember snapping beans on many a hot summer's night on the porch, back in the days before central AC.  I remember the thrill of picking dinner right off the vine.  The sweetness of the just-picked corn mingling with butter--no taste treat has ever been better.

When I think of Heaven, I think of tasting those foods that seem impossible to find anymore.  I'm hoping to do it with loved ones around me.

I'm also thinking of a poem I wrote years ago.  It first appeared in Tar River Poetry and will also be part of my forthcoming chapbook.

Necessity of Moisture

His last letter spoke of snow,
the necessity of moisture, the dryness of the soil.
Even though he had not tilled the ground
in more than twenty years, the dirt
still spoke to him. As with an old love,
his connection to the land would never completely cease.

Although she would never farm his way,
his daughter always kept a garden.
Even now, long after she’s let the grass grow
over the backyard once ruled by green
beans, squash, tomatoes, and okra, even now, she shovels
her organic waste back into her compost heap.

I will never garden on even my grandmother’s
small scale, but I save all my kitchen scraps,
mix them with grass clippings, compost
in my non-professional way. I long for her rich, black dirt
as I stick my seedlings in the Florida sand.
We chat every Sunday, exchange rainfall statistics
the way some men might discuss baseball details.
Catlike, I save weather tidbits through the week as a love offering.

Some families develop elaborate gift giving rituals,
a whole language of material love. Others create pet
names, secret personalities, languages no outsider understands.
My family’s secret language lies in the meteorological details
and soil analysis, love as moisture, compost, seedlings.

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