Crop Failure

He studied to become an architect;
but even if he found a job, he says,
he'd hate to un-build the wilderness,
to deconstruct in concrete the designs of nature,
peopling it space by space.

Much better to work in the orchard,
alone with his trees. As he grips the spade,
the veins in his hands and forearms pattern his skin
like the tunnels a beetle might form in a piece of bark.
He terraced the garden himself, plot after plot,
then planted vines and pruned the saplings,
carried up buckets of water from the valley,
sowed beans and squash and pumpkins.

I seldom see him leaving for the garden now.
His voice is wistful
when he tells me that once you could make a living from farming,
that once you needed no license to keep a vineyard.
He walks bent
over an invisible hoe,
his eyes the colour of wet soil,
broken and tilled.

In his parents' home, uprooted,
he ploughs the PC keyboard,
sows application after application
which never yield
a crop.

2000