I too used to complain, after him,
that I had to cut it all;
now it looks no wider
than a grade-school hall.
Where did the room
for the pattern he’d send me on
go, from him and the well-top
down and in, past the spruce?
If I’d keep two feet in
where he hated to see
the gravel get over the brick
and into the grass,
I might fall in the driveway
but it was a completed pass.
In the judgment of the referee,
rules aren’t meant to be broken.
He wouldn’t let Bruce or me
challenge him by word or token,
of which a stance, a look, a sigh
was all it took: his hostility was open.
He made stumps of our bunk-beds
when we moved out. If he would cry,
he said he feared he’d never stop.
“Act natural,” he’d say, “there’s a cop.”
When the lilac by the side porch wore out,
he pruned it back to basics. It’s halfway back.
But the honeysuckle never really sprang back,
did it, for all the pains he took in its behalf,
every leaf and twig a storm or a gust would down
raked up and bagged. Good thing the grass never
took off in under there, to cover all the ground,
the way he hoped at first it would. He came to swear
he’d die before he’d have a lawn if he had to do it all again. Or
was it, “I wouldn’t have a lawn if I had it all to do again. I’d die before.”
In any case, he wouldn’t; he’d have a smaller lawn, a lawn once more.