Poet's Choice

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By Robert Pinsky
Sunday, April 2, 2006

Tending a garden, holding a pen: two symbols of civilization. Cultivation and writing, skills developed by previous generations, imply hope that in the future someone will be present to consume the produce or to read the writing.

In his book Hoops , Major Jackson emphasizes a garden's hopeful and civilizing qualities by depicting two generations at work on a patch of earth. The grandfather resists the decay of his neighborhood and responds to a crime by planting a garden. The grandson vows to continue the work with a pen:

Urban Renewal

XIII.

The backyard garden wall is mossy green

and flakes a craggy mound of chips. Nearby

my grandfather kneels between a row of beans

and stabs his shears into earth. I squint an eye,--

a comma grows at his feet. The stucco's

an atlas, meshed-wire continents with leaders

who augured hate, hence ruins, which further sow

discontent. We are weeding, marking borders,

a million taproots stacked in shock. Forty years


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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