The Old Man’s Garden

This one is definitely older than 2008, but it’s tough to pin down.  I would estimate it somewhere between 2003 and 2006.

The Old Man’s Garden

If I close my eyes I can see him so clearly

wearing a wide-brimmed hat against the sun,

wrinkled fingers trimming the hedges,

watering hydrangeas.

I spent so many hazy afternoons weeding

the old man’s garden, caring for tasks

time-weary fingers could no longer attend

for sake of a dollar to be spent on

candy cigarettes,


and with whatever change was left

a few sticks of bazooka gum—which I liked

more for the comics than the taste—but what else

could you get for a nickel?

So much time has passed since then.

The world keeps getting smaller and smaller.

Tripping over stray roots, I wonder when the leaves began to wilt,

when the colors faded, when the dandelions little yellow heads

became prominent and everything else began to falter and decay.

Automatically, I kneel down,

dig my fingers into the dirt,

begin pulling them out by the roots

—you have to make sure to get all of it—

when the back door opens slowly,

creaking—and grandmother calls:

Darling, please get up. You’ll ruin your suit before the funeral.

I can’t seem to form a reply.

I want to say, just a little more, grandma. I’m almost finished.

But I know this job is one meant to be done by other, smaller hands

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