Winter Garden

— in memory of Bill Stafford

Some mornings a face passes
in a tram window going the other way,
or a leaf falls past my bedroom window,
while outside the old man from next door
works his rake beneath the bushes, and along
the fence the first spring flowers push through.

What live coal have I banked against my own
fear of winter? I am rigid with worry, ready
to snap in the lightest breeze. Then a face
goes by the other way; the old man works
in the garden, and sunlight through the limbs
of the yew tree scatters shadows among the small

yellow blossoms marked off with sticks.
All winter the old man knows just where
not to put his foot down. Now with the flowers
speaking for themselves, he moves slowly
through the garden, pulling up stakes
and dropping them into a deep white pail.

From the collection Winter Garden