Describing something simple and first hand and yet managing to get a hint of a deeper meaning, here’s Andrew Hirst’s poem.
Had done nothing since the stroke,
stiff in his baize armchair, olive oil and rooted as the days.
Emptied eyed, sallow voice, wasted, nothing.
He hated me, stood solid by the kitchen door
pink and fresh faced.
“If I just did a morning… now and again.
Things ‘ll soon get cleared up”
I didn’t step any further, not wanting to tread the
carpet in my wellingtons.
Almost lost, he said nothing. He’d not agreed,
“If I just did a morning. Now and again.”
She kept on calling me Steve. I said nothing.
As things were, she said to do it anyway,
he’d come up later to have a look.
He never came.
The shed was unlocked and I was to get what I needed,
full of treasures of a rusted craftsman age.
Catalogues of a summer past.
long since coloured in perfumed pots
Tins of paint with skins thick as crocodiles.
Cut string, uniform for stakes,
strimmer, spade, shears, forks, pruners, rotorvator even-
“To touch another mans tools…” I thought:
Here, where he’d lived out his secret life,
cloched in the green light.
Outside the regiments of leeks rotted.
She saddened, it’s all he could manage in soups and stews
she’d make with seeping pride.
“O for the pleasure of growing” he’d of said.
The stacked pots, emptied and fuelless as northern chimneys
blocked the sun from the greenhouse.
She’d taken a few cuttings,
they’d not seen water in months.
Yet she’d worry if nothing got done…
She brought me a coffee and picked off a few of the Brussels.
I went between the chrysanthemum: Purple Prince,
Ogmore Vale, Mrs Ballystead.
The frost had had them all.
I said nothing.
The soil still cold as a grave
and me with his dignity and chrysanths.
Copyright remains with the author.
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