Sunday, March 26, 2006

March 26, 2006 - Thinking About the Garden

"Thinking About the Garden"

I’m thinking today about the Garden
(which I suppose is a good thing,
because it means I’m not thinking
about the cancer).

The Garden
is a small plot of ground
off to the side of the Manse,
tucked between the concrete drive
and the gray-shingled house.
Each Spring about this time,
for each of the fifteen Springs we’ve lived here,
Jake, the Sexton,
has come, unasked,
gripping his Roto-Tiller’s handles,
to churn and turn
the clods for me,
so I could claim
my suburban squire’s privilege
of pressing a few tomato seedlings
into the moist earth,
and of savoring the distant hope
of a taste of vine-warm fruit
at some steamy summer cookout yet to come –
a cascade of sweet, red juice
“running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron
running down over the collar of his robes.”

Jake’s retired now.
There is no more Sexton
(sorry, budget cutbacks).
We have a cleaning service
and a grounds service, too:
(A pity.)

“Sexton,” propounds the Oxford Dictionary,
comes from sacristanus (Old Latin):
“A person responsible
for looking after a church,
its contents,
and the churchyard,
frequently acting as bell-ringer
and gravedigger.”
The sacristanus handles sacred things,
like clods of moist, brown earth.

We never did permit Jake to handle
the sterling silver trays of yeasty bread cubes,
nor the sweet, Presbyterian grape juice,
decanted from Dr. Welch’s bottle
into plastic cups.
He was a man of the earth,
with dirty hands to show for it.
Those tasks belong to the Deacons
in their proper Sunday suits and dresses:
they who ascend the hill of the Lord
with clean hands
and a pure heart
(or so goes the theory).

There is no sacristanus to churn the earth for me,
churn it like the waters of Bethesda’s pool,
so it may yield its increase.
(More’s the pity.)

One bright day,
hoe in hand,
I will do it myself.

Indeed it is a good thing
that I am thinking about the Garden,
because it means I’m not thinking
about the cancer.

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