Agricola: A Song for Planting
My arms have labored such small cares
And failed them. So little as one seed,
To sow, or toss among the tares
To shrivel for thirst, or try to feed
What’s buried in the drying ground.
I scythe the grain when Autumn comes.
But now, the earth is cold; the browned
And fallen husks of last year crumble
Beneath each step I take. This year
Promises drought, the thirsting stalks
To be as these cut white stalks are,
The living follow the dead’s walk.
What lie did I tell myself when
I cast my efforts to sustain
Each growth? Each year forgives my sin,
But remnants of each loss remain.
Old Man in a Cafe
Imagine, like a student who has come
Across a still-life of a pair of boots
In the back gallery of a museum,
That this man, sitting here before you, has
A fold of bills tucked in one of his shoes,
Between the argyle sock and leather upper,
The rubber soles worn crooked, the left one cracked
And smelling of the pavement’s wormy damp.
Because there are no places fit to shield him,
Where the wide streets and awnings blanch with sun,
The park rain-washed, and slick grass hissing on
The heels of children uniformed, fatherless,
Four o’clock darkness hides him and his papers
Spread out to show the trading numbers, there,
Ill-suited to the buzz of frothing milk.
For you who think he meditates on fact,
The memory of finance, the largess
Hidden behind what greasy wool he wears;
For you who see his lips are brown with coffee
And think him but a pensioner whose fall
Though hardly interesting was at least sad;
Like all the indigent and muttering,
Let him be counted no such easy figure.
But say instead, if he has lost all grace,
He had his share. If he no longer speaks,
His language, like as not, was eloquent
Once. Give him at the least these fumbling words,
And count him not as typical of an age,
Of one particular time, but as the late
Twilight which any suited breast must find,
Fallen quiet with the lapse of history.
And then consign, along with caricature,
This imagistic obverse charity
To the blank coffee darkness of unknowing,
Those places where what’s there cannot be said.