Mark D. Hart: “Planting Garlic”

Mark D. Hart, a Buddhist meditation teacher and award-winning poet, read the poem below at the Karuna Center in Northampton last year, at a 20th anniversary celebration for the Northampton Insight Meditation Community. It was first published in the October 2008 issue of Midwest Quarterly. He’s kindly permitted me to reprint it on this blog. Read Mark’s Honorable Mention prize poem from the 2007 Winning Writers War Poetry Contest here.

Planting Garlic

I love to imagine the first blind rootings
in gravity’s dark light, the sodden waiting,
the slow ignition of their tiny green rockets

as I bury their pink-skinned cheeks in the
corpse-cold ground, soon freezing to stone.
My neighbor says the mounded beds look like

freshly dug graves. He’s right—I am
an undertaker for the living, consigning innocents
to birth not death, though

not every womb is warm. Let this planting
stand for all inhospitable beginnings,
for what shivers unseen awaiting its chance.

Foot to shovel, back to wind, sky dour with
coming rain, crows squawking, a few creaking pines,
the hoarse whisper of corn stalks blowing,

their dry matter to be thrown on the pile—
I could work up a good sweat of melancholy here
if wonder were not constantly interrupting.

I’m fifty. I take no comfort in the rites of religion.
Let me see the miracle before me,
the one I too am.

Let planting bring me to my knees.