Poetry: Down in the garden

Down in the Garden
By Andrew B. Watt, for Tony Brown

Fore paws made for running
finished digging,
started lifting the old man,
out of the dirt where he’d been shoved
(stuffed, really)
head-first all the way to his muddy ankles,
into the soft dirt at the bottom of the gaden.

“Thank you,” said the old man
stifly bowing first to his rescuer, 
then to retrieve a large golden ring
and a saw from the bottom of the hole.
“Thank you again,” he added, squinting 
at his tawny-coated savior.

“No problem,” said Coyote, shaking dirt from his flanks.
“Third time this week, though.  Nice to see you again, Joe.”
He looked at the old man hungrily.
“You still smell like forest… or food.”

The old fellow settled the ring on his head like a beret,
where it gradually faded into insubstantiality,
a nimbus of glowing gold around his forehead and ears. 
“That’s the wood-shavings,” he said, “and the glue.
I still have no food.”

“Unfortunate,” said Coyote,
sniffing the old man’s pockets to check for food anyway.
“No offense,” he said to the carpenter,
“but I would hide food from me, too.”

“None taken,” the man said, stroking mulch out of his beard,
and turning his pockets for Coyote to smell.

“Why do they keep burying you alive?” Coyote asked, “And upside down?”

“Ah, well,” the old man sighed, brushing a clod of earth from his robes.
“They’re hoping to play a trick, you see.
By burying me, they’re hoping to make someone
kick them out of their home.”
He gestured to the twilight outline
of a house at the top of the garden.

“How is that a trick?” Coyote asked.

“It’s their custom,” said the saint, as anyone could have seen by that point,
“They compensate people when they take their home, 
with an equal exchange of wealth.”

Coyote thought about this for a moment.

“So…”he started out, and paused.  “So they bury you —“ 
and here he pointed to the hole again,
“and then people come along and take their houses
and homes and land,
but then the invaders provide compensation?”

“Something like that, yes,” said the saint, 
checking his saw for damage 
and brushing off the mud caked to the blade.

“Adequate compensation?” Coyote persisted.  “Sometimes overabundance?”

“Yes, of course,” said the saint, “that’s the promise, the little magic trick that I assist with.”

“Wonderful!” Coyote exclaimed.  “That is indeed an excellent trick!”

In a trice, the trickster had socked the holy man in his jaw, 
and shoved him back into the hole he’d been rescued from.  
It took a while for Coyote
to pack down the dirt,
jumping up and down on the holy man’s back
until he’d stopped struggling,
stopped moving.

“I’ll be back for you in a while, Joe!”
said Coyote to the piled earth,
sure the saint could hear him.
“I’ll come back, 
once your wonderful trick has worked!”


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