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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?