“Plowing” by K.M. Stemmler

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)

“The Waiting” by S.K. Vitai

I. The Waiting…

They’ve plasticized you
Etherized your brain
The pain of steel
Controls your every feeling
You gaze upon the ceiling
Sterile white and muted green
Surround you kaleidoscopically.

You sleep—you sleep
The medical ambrosia slithers
Steadily silently
It seeps through every tired vein
The pain—you think—the pain
All stops (a click-a push)
The rhythm drones again.

How can you learn to love again?
They’ve mechanized your every move
But still i see the pulsing lines of flesh
The tired eyes those steel-stained hands
That strained to make that lifedream work
I want to cry but only smile
And think that I might love you.

II. The Unveiling…

I see you now
All tampered white
And placed upon
The linen of your life
Your wife the worn and weepy one
Impatient while you sleep
Hovers like an innocent bird of pray.

We stare—-we stare
We check to see if all is working
Perfectly properly
Disliking silence we being to speak
I’m weak—-you think—-I’m weak
The voices fade
The cadence of our footsteps dies away.

III. The Aftermath…

You talk today
And all you eat is ice
The price of staying human
Is the whole of self-reliance
We marvel at the miracles of science
That undid the wrong and
Put you back together—-systematically.