POETRY

For a Gardener

By

His right hip has a swivel to it—very slight—
      Yet just enough to misalign the knee;
And then, in turn, to twist the ankle, so the foot
      Can never quite fall flat upon the ground.
While working—his long, mud-stained trousers may conceal
      The skewed mechanics of each step he takes;
But in idle hours, torn shorts reveal the flaw
      That haunts all his attempts at forward motion.
Where others proceed swiftly, moving straight ahead—
      His pace is somewhat slower, and it slants—
Its angle hardly crippling, but oblique enough
      To mark him out as he who hesitates,
As he who draws back calmly from the starting line
      Because he's chosen not to run this race.

Now, this is not a place where profit's devil waits
      At every lonely crossroads, striking deals:
I'll give you this for that—or that for only this—.
      Ambition drives a subtler bargain here.
Yet even so his quiet modesty is striking,
      His limp a humble, humanizing anchor
That moors him resolutely to his earth's green crust.
      His patience blending with his habitat,
His fate's the triumph of a gentler evolution:
      I'm just a gardener. No more than that.

The garden path is laid out in a sort of circle
      With no beginning—thus without an end.
And every afternoon at half past four o'clock,
      (Alerted by the angle of the sun)
He sweeps this endless path as planned, with true devotion,
      Same time, same place, same slow and steady rhythm—
The hand that grips the bamboo broom, in constant motion,
      His free hand resting, still, behind his back.
And every afternoon I hear him from my porch,
      And look up from my reading just in time
To watch the leaves drop lightly to the clean-swept path
      Behind him, moments after he's passed by—
To make it clear, with each determined step he's taking,
      How little progress he indeed is making.

(Petulu, Bali—2004)

In the early eighties, R. Nemo Hill was convicted of locking himself overnight in the basement of the local post office, and licking all the stamps. As punishment for this reckless criminal act he was forced to publish, in collaboration with painter Jeanne Hedstrom, an illustrated novel based upon the processes of medieval alchemy (Pilgrim's Feather, Quantuck Lane)--as well as a book-length poem in heroic couplets, based upon a short story by H. P. Lovecraft (The Strange Music of Erich Zann, Hippocampus), and a chapbook (Prolegomena To An Essay On Satire, Modern Metrics). His most recent book is a collection of poems (When Men Bow Down, Dos Madres). He is also the editor/publisher of EXOT BOOKS and blogs at ELSEWHERE.

His right hip has a swivel to it—very slight—
      Yet just enough to misalign the knee;
And then, in turn, to twist the ankle, so the foot
      Can never quite fall flat upon the ground.