Keep and Give Away
What do I know of man's destiny?
I could tell you more about radishes.
—Samuel BeckettWith a bushel basket in hand
he's the tally of my ripest desires,
more than the sum of his summer
crops, perfect and plentiful as they are—
even counting Early Contenders
and Silver Queen. Burpless
cucumbers, Kentucky Wonders too.
Throw in the fruit to sweeten
the numbers: blackberries and figs
piled in pyramids or weighed
in pecks. And don't forget
the peppers (red yellow green),
divided into keep and give away.
Dinner plates—heaped with leafiness,
tubers and pods—heavy
with the haul and roots of his labor.
Now he's shelling peas in his lap
and I sit across the room, listening
to the ping, ping. He's more
than the sum, I cannot count the ways,
and despite a constant reckoning
of work and luck, numbers fail me
in this long, hot growing season.
[First published in The Southern Review; rptd. in Keep and Give Away]
[First published online at Verse Daily]