Once I pushed the tiller round
and round, breaking circles
concentric in the dry, knotty
ground. What we’d planted
before had gone to seasons
so long past, the weeds’ hold
had returned, rooted
in clumps of gray rock
and stringy earth.
This was summer again,
that always favored time.
I turned under a scorching sun
thinking to make the soil mine
like nothing else I could find.
My hands held that handle
in a grip that wrestled
through the worn wood
with those stubborn clods.
All day I drove the blade
into that dirt. It barely
did the job. And when I stopped
I marveled how well you’d
robbed a place of whatever
it takes to make things grow.
I cursed the dismal plot of land
I’d hoped to plow to something
as good or better than it began as
when we’d cut its borders together.

The harvest, my hard year, wasn’t
too bad. But I struggled
to extract every vegetable,
fruit, and flower, and finally
left it to seed.
Leaving it all as you had
already done, I found
other places to plant, other
tables to pile the bounty on.
I’ve never tried since
to rework some life
first dug, furrowed, and
seeded deep down by
myself with another.
That half-acre refused to let
me back in until I shaped it to my
wounded will, and even then
bore me its crops grudgingly.

I’m sure by now
the sneaky grass has grown over
with its deceptive green cover while
underneath, the sinewy dark and dust
still tangle, resisting any new light,
like almost everything else known.

–Rebecca Weiner Tompkins


Poetry

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