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Poetry of John Long

Monologue for Matthew 

 

 

How deep to plant, how far apart, 

how long before maturity 

the backs of the seed packs tell me.

 
 

 And you there in the shade, 

watching me as I plant 

and pretending with your toy spade

to till the floor of your playpen,

are another seed I've sown.

 

 

Ninety days to the harvest,

says the card from the Better Boys

--three months they can be trusted

to grow and become what they will,

tomato plants having never been known

to run into a busy street,

or climb out onto the roof.

 

 

Could you be rooted and fenced, my boy,

for a decade, say, or two?

Who can tell how far apart

you and I must grow?

And does it depend on how deep

we can make love go?

 

 

The trouble is, a son

doesn't come with any instructions,

not so much as a half sheet

of fundamental directions,

the kind one always gets

with even a simple toy.

 

 

No, you came emptyhanded

into the lives of your parents,

counting on a few seasons

to have taught them a thing or two.

 

 

Your mother calls me a skeptic,

and most of the time it's true,

but right now, on my knees in the garden

seems like a good time for praying.

 
 
 

For Matthew at Two Months

 

 

 

That I'm waking early,

 

impatient to be rising,

 

is a very good sign

 

 

 

That I'm no longer wishing

 

I could sleep all morning

 

is a good sign indeed

 

 

 

I like to think it signals

 

the hoped for return

 

of my long absent spirit

 

 

 

I can only conclude

 

that you found it wandering

 

lost on the other side

 

and, taking pity, thought

 

to fetch it home when you came

 



 



 



 



 

After David's Nap

 

 

 

What a giant grinning fool

 

I must appear to him,

 

delighting in every little sign

 

of his sweet evolution.

 

No wonder his wonderful eyes

 

ignore the toys I offer

 

and seek instead the dayshine

 

I rescue from his curtains.

 

Like me, the sun's been waiting

 

out in the cold for hours

 

to light upon his face.

 

 

 

And suddenly I think I know

 

what it is he is seeing.

 

Could it be the muffled face

 

of his life -- his life! -- to come

 

peeking in at the frosted window?

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