[written in 2004, I think . . . maybe longer ago than that]
After this time maybe I’ll put the mower in the basement
this hand-operated machine which I chose not for any benevolent reason
the previous one always stalled and sputtered the hell with it
for it to sit down there all winter
among dried ordure and braided grass
catshit and hairballs, a dead toilet
goggle-eyed toys and aquariums and art project monsters
and a living washing machine and dryer.
This Saturday it is almost too hot, me with my panama hat.
I’m not doing this with the anger I see and hear and smell on most Saturdays
the suburban armies of the noon fighting off their decay
with a vengeance.
I leave a clovery patch in the corner by the graveyard of drooped sunflowers
spent and seeded and looking pretty sad about it
just to leave something undone.
I like the sound of the cuttings their spin
the weavery of it.
The back of the lot hardly has grass at all dead leaves and twigs.
I yell over to Joe working on his porch
how I’m sick and tired of stepping in dog shit for the fourth time
well you do have a dog he says.
And I don’t know if he is scolding me or being neighborly.
The vines on the back rusted fence are the color of orange skins left in an oven.
I don’t want to know the names of all the leaves
just the secret fire that erupted from the green veins.
My own fire never was too secret was it
they saw it a mile away.
Look at those drunken hedges raucous since I cut them in
what June when I cut the cord once again and tried to see if I could
snip the chain-link fence.
I’ll let the hedges stay unruly till the spring
(like the hair my father railed against and took as a personal insult
did it matter at all, now, Dad)
if I make it that far.
Those wasp nests I sprayed and swatted and crushed back in May
was that the way to go?
I wonder where they’re hiding now
what hidden fire to keep them through a long Syracuse winter
and if they are taunting me.