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Late Morning, Almost Noon


ISSUE:  Summer 2010
And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused . . .
William Wordsworth, “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”

Not the best time to be trimming the junipers,
my wife reminds me,
it being one week past the middle of August,

but I fear that if I give the bushes another hour
they’ll overcome us
all, and though I love the lovely scent of cedar

I prefer not to be smothered by it—and, too,
there is something
to be said for doing something by the sweat

of one’s brow, grandmother on my father’s side
awash in sweat as she
walked the clothesline decapitating chickens,

my father wringing sweat from a square of blue
cotton as inch by inch
he dug a tunnel under our lopsided house

to accommodate a floor furnace no less than
to defuse a peckish wife.
Not far to the north, at a fountain in Eden

Park, a man with an orange bicycle stands
coughing
in a baritone that surely must carry all the way

to wherever mercy, or vengeance, resides. It is
difficult for me
to reach the top of this one, but on tiptoes

I manage, and with my shears I snip the branch that
with its removal
creates a symmetry that my wife, standing

in the shade of the open garage, applauds. A tall
glass of water, with ice
sits on the trunk of the Toyota. I drop the shears

on the grass and, before joining her, turn to see
that the man with the
resonant baritone is gone. Here, she says,

handing me the glass. And I drink deeply. Is
this what the sublime
amounts to? Not the work, or the sweat, or even

the symmetry, but something that happens when
something you love
not to do but to finish, like dying, goes down?

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