Dealing with the Drought

I have very few vivid visual memories of childhood. I believe I was a verbal rather than a visual person even then; I remember much more clearly what was said to me than what I saw.

Our neighbor for several years was an organic gardener before anyone called them that; everyone just called him a hippie. He had an astonishing vegetable garden that took up most of his back yard, no chemicals needed. He was so dedicated to clean gardening that he cut a hole in his garage door so my cat could go in at night and take care of the mice, chem-free. I remember him putting a plastic salt shaker out on top of one of his tomato stakes when they were ready, so we could just go out there, pick one, salt it, and eat it when we wanted. You could without worry, and they were marvelous. I may not be visual, but I absolutely remember how they tasted, and that might be the first consciously sensuous experience of my life.

The sight of him washing his hair in the rain when the drought broke is one of the few clear and detailed visual images I retain from growing up. Most of the handful I do recall have put in appearances in poems over the years.

Dealing with the Drought

He might have sat at his kitchen table,
Staring out the window at the sunflowers bent double,
Cucumber vines that crumbled at his touch,
And offered a private bargain, a spell against the spell:
If the garden stays dry, I stay dry.

He might have waited,
His promise kept under his straw hat until the sky unlocked.
Pockmarking the dust
Soaking children rolling in wet brown grass
And parents with the sense to come out into the rain.

He might have.
All we saw of it was him in his yard,
Shampoo and towel on the back step,
Laughing and lathering
In private acknowledgement of a contract fulfilled.

1993

(photo: Wikipedia)

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