Author's Note: This is a glosa, a Spanish form where you quote four lines of someone else’s poem as an epigraph. These four lines act as a refrain in the final line of the four stanzas written by the poet. So the first line of the epigraph would be the final line of the first stanza, the second line ends the second stanza, etc. Usually these stanzas are ten lines long, and line 6 rhymes with line 9, which rhymes with line 10. Challenging! This one is from my book, The Book of Kells, which I wrote while I was in residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Co. Monaghan, Ireland (www.tyroneguthrie.ie), and I have several others in this book. I chose the quatrains from Irish writers.
Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests, as snug as a gun. Under my window a clear rasping sound When the spade sinks into gravelly ground: Seamus Heaney, “Digging” Saint Patrick’s Day, and cold. But time, where I live, to plant peas. I scrape the grainy dregs of snow with my hoe, try to pry some dirt loose, still hard and full of pebbles and frost. Each divot, a small grave, waits to receive its hard gray nubbin, which looks dead, dumb as a rock, and yet, given time, rain, longer days, some dark magic will spark a shoot, a root, will push the earth aside. I rub a crumb between my finger and my thumb. Between my fingers, on this gray March day, I roll the paper packet shut, tamp down each pock of soil dark with compost and leaf meal. It takes a leap of faith to believe in June, green grass, blue skies, roses and honeysuckle filling the air. To believe in the return of the sun, that somehow, it will coax vines up the rusty wire fence that tries and fails to keep out deer. I go inside to write when gardening’s done. The squat pen rests, as snug as a gun. But guns are on my mind, and how can they not? Each day, another shooting on the news. My grandchildren practice drills: Shelter in place, have to pretend there’s a shooter in their school. Is this not trauma, too? More people shot by toddlers than by terrorists, and yet Americans persist in clinging to their guns. Come around to the airport, see the young men with AK47s. Do you feel safer? I sure don’t. Outside my window, a cold wind harrows the daffodils; they scatter on the ground. Under my window a clean rasping sound. My skin feels rasped while listening to the news. Another plane hijacked, another politician frothing at the mouth. But nothing changes. Except the weather, with storms coming in from the west; early spring in Pennsylvania. Amidst the horror, the steady rain of bad news, the worry over climate change, coastlines drowned as ice caps melt, oceans rise, the only thing I know how to do is tend my garden, turn over the dirt in even rows, drill in the seed, pat it down, let the spade sink into gravelly ground.
Originally published in Book of Kells
©2021 Barbara Crooker
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