The Cabbage Patch

by Joy A. Farmer '72

 

Sharpened by autumn chill and evening quiet,
a shovel’s purposeful rasp catches our ear:
Next door, our neighbor James is planting cabbage.
He bows his bulk to the blade, shoulders shaking, older now
than just one week ago, when his boy toiled beside him,
then with a sudden stroke
reversed the natural order of springtime and harvest.

He swaps the spade for hoe to tackle the clods
that yield to his rhythmic chopping,
enriches the clay with mulch from the compost heap,
cultivating deep,
often reaching for the kerchief in his pocket.
Stray droplets darken his peacoat
though his brow’s too cold for sweat.

Cremation sparks the need to bury something.
James has chosen cabbage.
Easing the infant plants from the nursery pots,
he cribs and tucks each vegetable into the grave,
tenderly as a father cradles his newborn—
wide baby gaze reflecting
only the salad days that green before them.