What I Learned in the Garden

As a child, what little I knew of my father, I learned from his garden.

The furrows cutting to the contour of the land, how deep the plow blades dug,

The stout stakes, the churn of the Rotatiller, the correct way to dig for potatoes.

He was all about hard edges, rules, precision, motors and blades.

My mother was the lighter touch, flowerbeds, morning glories, day lilies and praise.

I could die here in this garden, I thought, fingering the last of the seeds,

When a robin touched down and was caught in a bit of string.

Although I rose to save it, scissors in hand,

It hopped from me, one leg dragging the string, orange breast heaving,

Eyes wild; more afraid of my pursuit, than its entanglement.

Finally, it lifted to the sky, the long string waving in the air like a flag.

It flew higher, and higher, then out of sight.

For days I fretted, wondering if the string was ever freed,

Wondering if the bird had lived.

What I failed to remember was that it flew away

And no matter what, was free.

Michelle Courtney Berry is Poet Laureate Emeritus of Tompkins County, N.Y., a Cave Canem fellow and gardener. She has opened for His Holiness The Dalai Lama, Maya Angelou and has appeared on Good Morning America.

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