Three Garden Poems


Since you can’t
wait any longer
I went to Ace Hardware
paid $42.50 for an orchard net
got out two step ladders
set the big one on the west side
the little one on the east
of the serviceberry
then climbing the big ladder
higher than I like
I pulled the net up and over
using clothespins to close gaps.
That’s why some of you crashed
before you reached dessert.
I mean no nastiness,
just a bit of sharing.
On Monday I’ll pick
two pails, enough for cereal
and two jars of jam. Then
I’ll call Teddy and Eileen and Maeve
to picnic on low ones.
When they’re finished
I’ll remove the net so you can
resume your party.


Some old men whittle,
others chew tobacco.
I’d like to learn to shuck
sunflower seeds with my mouth.

The task is this: to hold
the shell firmly while cracking
it to bits then remove it
without losing the meat.

I’ve seen major league baseball
coaches opt for a handful
rather than bubblegum or tobacco.
Every twenty seconds or so they
gaphooey the shells, like spit,
against the dugout wall. Not

Today a cardinal, red enough
to admire, jumped onto the green
bird feeder and gave me a lesson,
shucking seeds with a simple beak.
No gaphooeying at all, just a
slick sling of bit hulls
to the grass below.

Black Snake

You chose the garden path
   where sun warmed your blood.
I’m sad the snarling dogs found you,
   forcing you to fight.
When the hounds were wrestled away
   you escaped to an oak
   where you roped yourself safe. 

I wished at that moment we were friends
   you and I, confidants, so I could say
   you're welcomed to the woodpile,
   and we, partners in gardening.  
But I know that you won’t trust  
   me of the upright species
   that sees you groveling
   in the dirt, slithering a stigma.

You don’t want to hear again
   about Eden where seed is cursed
   and gardeners have to hide.
Black snake, I rue this myth, this fight. 
   I wish I could promise you, 
   a place on the path warmed by the sun.

About the Author

J. Daniel Hess

J. Daniel Hess is now retired from a career of college teaching (Goshen College), consulting (organizational communication) and writing. Among his books are From the Other’s Point of View (Herald Press, 1980), An Invitation to Criticism (Pinchpenny Press, 1984), and Studying Abroad, Learning Abroad (Intercultural Press, 1997). In 2007 he published Surely Goodness and Mercy, a memoir consisting of 70 personal vignettes, one for each year of his life. Recently he has consulted informally with several people as they write memoirs. Dan is a member of “Bagels and Bards,” a small but active writers’ group in Indianapolis, featured in the January 15, 2011 issue of CMW Journal. His blog appears at jdanielhess.com/blog.