Earth Hymn

by Jeanie Thompson

The tines caked with mud amaze
            him he says and then as the April afternoon
wanes he turns the earth and pours in humus
            I cannot open the earth and not think of you
in the backyard near the old oak
            set like an elephant’s giant foot in my
tree-ring garden I’m on my knees
            deep in the one act I know brings
peace he is up front with the child who delights
            in nightcrawlers a bucketful of fish bait though we have
no water nearby the days I came upon
            your entourage furiously at work in your garden
they rallied around your heart
            toting impossible weights of rock and dirt
your sweet father covered in mud
            on his knees saying “Is this where Stephanie wanted
the begonias?” you would appear then
            sun hat over the wig to take me on a tour
“here is the rare Japanese maple we found —
            next year these will come back fuller”
in the evening he will go out one last time
            to the back garden some errand
that can’t wait until first light and return to
            hold me and say “I feel the garden humming”
I push the earth down and think I should tamp
            it the way you did walking methodically
down the rows to pack tighter than rich dirt
            from which later in the year the hollyhock towered
the moonbeam coreopsis floated in its ferns
            and you began the transformation
each morning breathing the day
            opening the earth I will think of you

Poem reprinted, by permission of author, from White For Harvest, River City Press, 2001.