The back door faces north. The pail I left
in the rain has formed a hoop of dirty ice,
dry and hard as iron. The air’s a vice
that clamps the ribs and almost stops the breath.
I’m planting garlic. Soil, forked over only
yesterday, is rigid now; the spade strikes
and sings aloud, as though I had hit stone.
With cold red fingers I tamp in the moonlike
cloves, carefully set them in fresh compost
from my heap, which, even in this freezing
season, is warm and sweet. I chop with my trowel
at lumps, trying to form a tilth; kneeling
in white rime I imagine summer’s tossed
lettuce, endives, capers ? vinegar, olive oil.
from Bradford & Beyond: a sonnet journal (Flambard, 1997), ? Gerard Benson 1997, used by permission of the author