Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ignore Winter; Look Ahead to Spring

Although I may have given up gardening, or so I claim, I have retained the gardener's habit of thinking past Winter ahead to Spring. Of course there's work to do in a garden during Winter, but it's not glamorous, so we won't go into that. . . .All across the Northern Hemisphere, gardeners are beginning to receive seed- and plant-catalogs in the mail, and they are reading them greedily. What actually springs eternal is the idea that next year, you'll be able to grow that thing you've never been able to grow. For me, it was asparagus. I never got the hang of it. I wasn't very good at strawberries, either. Raspberries, yes. I often recommend potatoes and (green) onions to those beginning to garden. Potatoes are somehow friendly. They do fine in poor soil and just need some water and some light (and potassium if you have some around); when the tops go bad, it's time to harvest, but especially in moderate climates, you can just leave the spuds in the ground until you need. Digging them up is like a little treasure-hunt, too. Potatoes are also very secretive, of course, like spies. I prefer the variety (of spuds, not spies) known as Yukon gold. Green onions are great because all they do is grow. They never complain, and they never get sick. You plant them, and you water them. You can also start them in the greenhouse or inside, of course. Easy crops are good for the gardener's soul and also for the gardener's soups and stews.

With Emily Dickinson's help, let's look ahead to Spring and not reward Winter for its bad behavior by noticing its bad behavior. Her poem:

EW feet within my garden go,
New fingers stir the sod;
A troubadour upon the elm
Betrays the solitude.

New children play upon the green,
New weary sleep below;
And still the pensive spring returns,
And still the punctual snow!
--Emily Dickinson


I read this one as an early-spring poem, with all sorts of creatures visiting the garden and with the troubadour (just flew in from Canada, and gee, are his wings tired) in the elm. The children are just children, I think: sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. "New weary" is interesting. I reckon if you are dead, then there's a certain sense in which you are weary--completely out of energy. Is spring pensive? In a way. It broods. Is snow punctual? Hmmm. Mercurial Ms. Dickinson.

Here's a short poem about Spring; it doesn't quite hide a disdain for politicians.

April Primary

Winter’s filibuster fades to mumbles.
The delegates are nominating Spring,
signifying their favor by piercing
soil with green digits. Birds work
the precincts, natural politicians:

quick with impromptu speeches,
always groomed, crisply garbed,
well coiffed. I support Spring. I think
it has a lot of good ideas.


Copyright 2007 Hans Ostrom

"Green digits" came from watching gladiola and iris leaves break through the soil. They really are blade-like, and it does seem (to one former gardener) as if they're signifying "Aye," in favor of a motion for Spring to take over again, to preside over things.

Post a Comment