The azaleaís been drab
since the year I scissored it
and carried off wild loose laces
in the wheelbarrow.
The single maple tree,
double-trunked, porched, split-
leveled by a house without basement,
keeps a squirrel out of sight.
Bluejays, in the high rushes
of its limbs, careen all daylight
while my grandfather knobs at weeds
with thumbed fingers, knuckled joints.
When he kneels, patella prismed
with near-orange pain, unsure of rising
again, the jays jangling his ears,
he pretends he does not
see me seeing him. His gray
felt hatís worn like a half-mast
pennant, his ankle-highs elaborate of cow
and a matter of tanning bark.
He is unsure of weed or flower,
and clears space because it is space,
a neatness that, after all, will grow again
no matter how he treats it.
I have seen other old men,
cleaning bricks, sweeping walks,
carving wood into nothing, just to keep
old hands moving in daylight.
He posts the sun high over house,
narrows it into noon, marks for boiled
potato and a single shot of rye as brown
as his belt. Heís faithful as time.
When he looks at me, itís never
sidelong or indirect, he speaks not of weather,
loon, the frog bloating, the sun hiss.