Thursday, October 15, 2009


You planted cabbages to please me,
I know.
And there the last three or four of them clung
like pock-marked green moons in orbit
across the muddy sky of the garden slope.

We had to get out the hatchet
to chop the woody stem off the one I wanted.
And then I pulled off leaf after leaf,
each rubbery jacket bull's-eyed
like cigarette burns on an unfortunate table,
where slugs had tried to burrow in.

Before I brought it inside for a good scrub
I hacked off
half-a dozen leaves with my pocket knife
and flung them onto the compost heap,
flicking slugs off,
lacking the zeal even to deprive
them of their disgusting lives.
Autumn is here, and where
is the gardener's thoroughness
that would have been mine in March or May?

The essence of cabbage
as I chopped through its crunchy thickness
on the kitchen counter
was what the word October
smells like.
That pure white-and-greenness
that filled my head
with what grows and keeps on growing
was what I had needed all this
short and getting-shorter day.

:: Richard Tillinghast, The New Life

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