December 21, 2008

Tom Boswell

HARVESTING THE CARROTS

Ten years later, when it was finally over,
            she confessed she had fallen in love
            with me that late autumn afternoon
            while I squatted, my back to her,
            harvesting the carrots.

My eyes were fixed on the carrot tops, ferny green
            filigree promising thick scarlet roots
            burrowed in the soil, so I failed to notice
            if she changed that moment—her face,
            her eyes, the way she walked—

When this thing she later called love swept
            over her. I do remember that the corn
            was behind us, and how she turned then
            to photograph it as I tore out carrots
            and tossed them in a willow basket.

I never understood what she saw in this garden
            she hadn’t worked, or in the ravaged corn
            she’d make into a photo to hang on a gallery
            wall, or how these things she hardly knew
            could stir such deep emotions, but

I’ve come to trust the way the bandit coon craves
            the corn, something pure and simple, lacking
            pretense. The photograph was one of those
            soft-focus works of hers you could
            hang any which way and still

See something to satisfy you, so long as you
            were not hungry for corn. There was mullein,
            goldenrod and bergamot still in bloom,
            and the wild carrot, Queen Anne’s Lace,
            which she claimed to love as well.

I teased her, called it a wanton weed, useless
            renegade from overseas, but showed her,
            as if it was a secret shared by just us two,
            the solitary purple blossom shuddering
            like a heart at the center of each bouquet.

Gather enough of these over a summer, I said,
            and you can dye something—a skirt or shirt
            perhaps—a dark hue like the stain
            of memory, a thing of beauty and utility.
            At least until the color fades.

from Rattle #29, Summer 2008