Thursday, January 1, 2004

Letter to John, No Longer Mine

John, there is news, and not news.
That I am still digging, diligently,
to remove what I never planted, is not news.
That you are with me in the garden,
that the firm white flesh of the taproot
is you, and the tickling fronds of yarrow
are you, this is not news.
But the work is hard. And today,
as I chopped, hacked, slashed, and wrestled
with mullein as big as a shrub, and roots
in mats and roots in balls, and tangled nets
of runners that have no end,
I leaned back on my heels to catch
the cool breath of air on my prickly skin,
and Buddha was there. (Now this is news.)
And he said, "Free yourself of desire
and be free of suffering."
I said, "What do you think I'm doing here?"
And St. Paul, too, was there, exhorting me,
"Do not gratify the flesh. Set your mind on the spirit."
"Right," I said. "Right."
Then Seneca, too, that Stoic:
"Be satisfied with your present condition."
But do you think even one of these men
would pick up a shovel? They sat in the shade
arguing their theories and lies,
as I, with my hands in the earth,
could already feel the tickle of underground roots
wiggling their slow, persistent way back up,
seeking, again and again, John,
the light that is your face.

Cheryl Gatling

published in Flyway

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