Once, we had ample time to neglect a garden.

Once, we had ample time to neglect a garden.

As sometimes happens, that line, those syllables, rattled around in my head for years before finding what seems to be a fitting home in a poem. For now, in any case.

Of course, along the way the line has tried to settle into any number of poems I ultimately discarded, unconvinced that they ‘worked’ in one way or another. In the end–if that is what the published version is–the poem grew ever shorter, more compact, and (I can hope) became a fitting vehicle for the insistent line that demanded it be written.

Planting the Hyacinth Bean Vines

Planting the hyacinth bean vines today

in compost it took us all season to make

from the insistent decay of daily lives rich

in unread newspapers, orange rinds,

eggshells, the cores of apples,

compliant twigs, fallen leaves,

one of us might have thought to say:

“Once we had ample time

to neglect a garden.”

When “Planting the Hyacinth Bean Vines” appeared in print in the wonderful journal Memoir (and), the reader who left a flattering comment on the magazine’s web site couldn’t have known how many years it took to pare a reluctant poem down to nine brief lines that just might merit such generous praise.

Here’s that comment: “Perfectly compressed metaphor. I’m filled with admiration.”

What more could I ask for?

“A poem is never finishedonly abandoned.”

–Paul Valery

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