It was not enough to see, in colorful maga-
zines and costly books, the country homes
and garden walks that men and women build
who have only ready money and a few ideas.
I too wished to sit sometimes drinking
tea by firelight, admiring a work of beams
and plaster, hanging fruit and herbs, good books
liberally strewn, and a sleeping cat (or two).
To which end I labored without cash, days
and even nights with saw and chisel, scraper,
hammer, knife, and plane, using such wood,
such paint, and even such nails as came to hand.
My friends and the friends of my friends remembered me
when their surplus had to go, and I went forth
with battered truck and pry bar, gathering decks
and fences long past keeping for those without
the patience to rebuild. I have learned
to watch for stones of certain weight and shape;
to lay a course of ninety-year-old brick,
to scrap a window sash to get the glass
for cutting, and fill the oddly angled wall
with joint compound. When supplies ran short,
I turned to the acre of ground, and forked and spaded,
laying out long beds, piling them with straw,
and covering the paths with leaves of oak, maple
and ash. Seeds bought last year at sale,
ten cents a pack, were sown with trembling hand.
They all did well: the new shelves are fat
with harvest. This all has come late to me. Now
I do sit in chimney-corner like the English cottage-
keeper, tea in hand and cat in lap,
ready to peruse an act of Winter's Tale
or book of Faerie Queene, only to find
my eyes no longer focus on ten-point type
for an act or a book at a time. I call the youngest
child, and she reads to me from Sendak, or
our mutual favorite, Potter, haltingly,
but with a will, improving as she goes.
As she sounds out words, I watch a knot
of fir collapse into the coals, and fall
to long, light sleep, with not unpleasant dreams.