Planting Garlic

I love to imagine the first blind rootings
in gravity’s dark light, the sodden waiting,
the slow ignition of their tiny green rockets

as I bury their pink-skinned cheeks in the
corpse-cold ground, soon freezing to stone.
My neighbor says the mounded beds look like

freshly dug graves. He’s right— I am
an undertaker for the living, consigning innocents
to birth not death, though

not every womb is warm. Let this planting
stand for all inhospitable beginnings,
for what shivers unseen awaiting its chance.

Foot to shovel, back to wind, sky dour with
coming rain, crows squawking, a few creaking pines,
the hoarse whisper of corn stalks blowing,

their dry matter to be thrown on the pile—
I could work up a good sweat of melancholy here
if wonder were not constantly interrupting.

I’m fifty.  I take no comfort in the rites of religion.
Let me see the miracle before me,
the one I too am.

Let planting bring me to my knees.

                        --The Midwest Quarterly, Autumn 2008