In the Garden of Benign Neglect
I. In Which I Confess to Wendell Berry That I Have Shamed Him
Most nights I couldn’t say about the moon
new, half, crescent, gibbous. When potatoes?
How eggplant? What flowers to festoon
the patch and keep away the moles?
My gardens fail. I’ll admit and just confess
the many reasons—blight, rabbit, flood, drought—
do not exceed plain old laziness
in its means to mock the beds and sprout
chaos, a harvest of spring’s good intentions
gone bad from too much not enough. I should have
sprayed and plucked, given more attention
to the soil. I could have shown more love
and looked things up. It’s all spoiled now
a weedy mess, though fecund.
I’m no mad farmer wise with know-how.
Still, the bees come, wild blooms beckon.
II. The Roof of the Shed Has Fallen In
Culprits: Rain and carpenter bees,
tornadic winds, benign neglect or just
neglect – a little houseful
spills into the yard, mounds up
and stays: glove, tool, brick, plastic
toy, ladder, brush, those cushions full of rain.
Our accumulation freights
the glistening day, and I wonder
what the archaeologists would say. What to make
of this fine, artifactual mess
of all the things
all the abandonings?
III. On Not Gardening at Noon
Zinnias have overtaken
tomatoes, a few survivors
of brown blight
split before our picking
all the basil has bolted
every last patch
I christen you The Garden
and could make of you a metaphor
for every failure of attention
for every failure
but on bright August days
it seems best
and most useful
to learn the names
of your butterflies
Day Lies Down on Dingle Hill
When barn swallows and bats come to feed
at dusk and cousins stop their lawn games
to guard their hair, when the tractor
has gone still and the empty silo, the milk-house
full of trash, the cow-less barn stand brown and white
and abandoned against the gloaming, when
day lies down on Dingle Hill, wraps up
all the little ghosts and streams, what is left to us?
Animal fear and firefly dreams. The lone catalpa
that bloomed then dropped its beans. A hunter’s gutted
buck hung from the maple made for sugar and shade.
A house, a deed, our grasp, the pitch and woo of history.
Leslie LaChance is a poet, essayist, and teacher. She also takes photographs every day, using the photographic moment as a means to focus attention and practice mindful observation. Among her favorite photographic subjects are gardens and honky tonks. Leslie lives in Nashville, Tennessee and teaches English at Volunteer State Community College. You can follow her photographic exploits on Instagram, where she posts as Fortunajones.
return to poetry home