Digging the garden with my father,
Him a tower of muscle
Behind a vibrating rotatiller,
Motor turning over
Wet soil streaked with clay.
And myself, replowing youth,
Searched for arrowheads and fossils.
I knew this area was mystical
And I pulled a squirming earthworm
From the soil.
Careful not to step in manure
As my new Keds would be ruined
For the summer
But unconcerned if my denims got dirty
From sitting in the wheelbarrow.
In my searching
I discovered, uncovered,
A rusty colored plastic lobster
Used to create images out of sand.
But the days of sandbox were over;
Every last grain has been dragged
Into the kitchen
For my mother to sweep up.
I wondered when the blackberries
Would be ready for eager fingers
And bare-skin arms to pick
And be scratched.
I failed to see that these
Were limited moments,
That not every spring
Would I be small enough to curl
Contraposto in the wheelbarrow;
Or plant diced potatoes, eyes up,
Inducing a struggle to grow
through a shallow soil covering.
And I never imagined I’d miss a spring
When my father tilled the soil,
Rebirthing, replenishing his dreams.
Not once did I suspect
I’d go back there in my mind,
To that garden, to see myself
Searching, a torn remnant of youth.
-Originally published in 1977, Volume 0
(The words “contrapposto” and “rototiller” were spelled incorrectly in the original publication)