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Sunday, January 18, 2009

It was not enough to see



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.
We too wished to sit sometimes drink-
ing tea by firelight, admiring our own beams

and plaster, our own hanging fruit and herbs,
good books liberally strewn, a sleeping cat (or two).
To which end we 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 our way.

Friends and friends of friends remembered us
when their surplus had to go, and we went forth
with pry bars in our hands, 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. House renewed, or almost,
we turned to the acre of ground, and forked and spaded,
laying out long beds, piling them with straw,

covering 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 groan
with harvest. This all has come late to us. Now
we do sit in chimney-corner like English cottage-

keepers, tea in hand and cat in lap,
ready to peruse an act of Winter's Tale
or book of Faerie Queene, only to find

our eyes no longer focus on ten-point type
for an act or a book at a time. We call the youngest
child, and she reads to us 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.



1995
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