Cold Beds by Michael Sandler

Lobster mitts might cushion the ache,
my hands numbed
by these cold, rain-wet stalks. The stakes
tenacious, anchored
in beds slimed here and there with rot.
Cut twine and a vine collapses,
limp as kelp. Tug upward and a tired length
slips from its dimple of earth
dangling a matted root.

I weeded, watered, pruned
and came to believe
I had claim to a red firmness
slicing so cleanly it would flake
onto my sandwich—I tried
to persevere…But the fruit was
blighted. The stems now lie
in a composting reef—bed of bladder-wrack
more fecund than my summer work.

Soil turns heavily, clods
the chop of a dark sea,
harvest entrails an earthworm’s chum.
My spade clanking against stone
jiggles off mud
more easily than fatigue,
the iron reverberation almost
a knell—or summons
to find moorings and a berth, if not sleep.

Michael Sandler
Michael Sandler’s poems have appeared in more than 30 journals, including California Quarterly, Valparaiso Poetry Review and Zone 3. For his day job, he works in the Seattle area as an arbitrator.

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