The Seedsman’s Watchers
   by John Stephens John Stephens

John Stephens is the author of Return to the Water (C & R Press, June 2013), which was reviewed by The Georgia Review. Other published work includes poems in Stone River Sky, An Anthology of Georgia Poems (2015) and The Penwood Review. John lives in Milton, Georgia, and his gifts have helped to establish the Adam Stephens Night Out for Poetry at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Poetry @TECH series.

A dog gnaws at a juicy bone, and from a rock
comes the sharp chuck-chuck of a blackbird.

The day is too dark for shadows,
and the seedsman, in his steady rhythm

slowly slices the ground hardened by time
into a shallow, 4-by-8 pit.

The bird lingers, as does the hound.
The seedsman hunches over his shovel,

then knuckles the hard soil into a mound.
How many planks does he need?

Does good wood need linseed oil?
The neighbor hangs laundry, her tired dress

drips like the oil off his rag. Her full body
works like habit. Bowing his head,

he nails the planks. The leaves slip off trees,
to what is a yearn. These are not

the only things turning. The first cool gust
of fall blows its invisible wants,

and the seedsman fits the empty raised bed
into the pit. He looks at his wrist watch,

turns over more earth. Now, behind the glass pane,
she is bare. And he steals a long glance, intently,

continues to work, and her screen door
slides shut like the last prayer in church.

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