Tidying

Oct 23, 2020

Today’s poem is "Tidying" by David Sloan.  He’s a graduate of the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA Poetry Program and teaches at Maine Coast Waldorf High School in Freeport.  His poetry has appeared in numerous journals and he received Maine Literary awards in 2012 and 2016. He’s the author of two books of poems, The Irresistible In-Between and A Rising, both from Deerbrook Editions.

He writes, “When we moved to Maine in 2006, we inherited a glorious flower garden. The previous owners had tended it so masterfully that it was featured in Down East Magazine.  Over the years, Christine and I have striven to resurrect some of the former glory of the garden.  What we've lacked in artistry, we've replaced with a certain dogged devotion.  This poem addresses such humbling, exalted work.”

Tidying
by David Sloan

Last leaves are the hardest 
to rake.  Long ago they gave up 
their claim on light and loft.   
Now they huddle in low places, 
shiver under spirea and yew. 

You work intently in the garden,
deadheading the coneflowers, hyssop, 
phlox. Only a few hardy asters 
and salmon-hued sedum remain, 
stubborn reminders of summer. 

Some fir twigs, needles brown 
and brittle, stick to the frosted ground. 
I've waited too long; mere drudgery 
turns into an all-out struggle, 
corpse-clawing. Rake's of no use.

You sit on a stool—your knees
scream when you kneel too long—
and begin to sing an old lullaby:
In a little old-fashioned cottage
in a little old-fashioned town. . .

to no one, but the air warms 
when you hum, makes this clipping 
and hauling seem less pointless.
Snow pack will flatten what we don't, 
but spring clean-up will be harder. 

Harder still, admitting our little 
lives hinge upon tidying up. What 
would we do if these dyings 
didn't prod us to scrape ground, 
prune and scour, trim this life to last?

Poem copyright © 2019 David Sloan.