Today's poem is by David Axelrod


Remind me, someone, it's only a matter of luck
whether famine inhabits a land or not,
and infallible signs in no way prepare us for a rapture
that ruptures the small world.

If I go outside at dark to dump a bowl of Empire skins in compost
and a blue halo of ice circles the Hunter Moon,
how certain may I be that flocks of geese will form by noon
the next day, a cold rain arrive by dusk?

Bent over scythe and shears, on my knees by first light,
I cut stalks of annuals, shake out seeds,
fold perennials in protest of the coming freeze
that will outlast the night.

Let fools talk loudest who hunger for wildness,
I refuse, in October, to concede,
to unhouse my mind, and choose
to hammer larch billets a little tighter in the wood pile.

A few geese squawk above the garden,
gather into one flock, turn a last circle over the valley
and dive past Glass Hill, the customary V receding,
growing small in the south, a dark filament in a sooty sky.

Unhoused at last am I, spellbound by signs
or just the usual melancholy
of knowing we'll die before we die?
Or maybe just stubborn?

Domestic provisions don't summon much confidence,
nor does chopping away last summer's dry exuberances—
I make my prayers for the small world
to endure just one more night.

And kneeling in shelter of brittle leaves
at noon, I pick and greedily eat a few raspberries
tricked into late blossom and ripening,
even as canes rattle like death's hollow bones.

I practice my lost faith because, as I pack away my tools,
a frog peeps from its cranny in the rock wall,
and all evening, and all the next day,
a mellow rain trickles in gutters—

rain coming almost too late this year,
we feared it might not arrive,
the reservoir remain a mudflat valley of stumps,
the river a bed of algae-draped stones.

After the end of the end, if rains seem less random,
I can't imagine myself in this garden,
a man, who, no smarter nor dumber than the rest,
and neither guilty nor guiltless,

sees rocket, kale, and rainbow chard
unfold from rotten straw in March,
and fails to recognize these signs,
fails to feel unaccountably kind.

Copyright © 2004 David Axelrod All rights reserved
from Quarterly West
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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