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John Hildebidle



for JML

"It's no accident, that garden—the wall of the yard,
tall as a man, curves precisely behind it,
and the sidewalk edge is trimmed, straight, tended.
The garden itself could, at first, be a patch
of unusually healthy weeds—but then you notice
tomatoes, runner beans, zucchini, decorative blossoms.
From the upstairs window where I've put my desk
it's a parable. But we preachers lean to such thoughts.
Sometimes a mother pauses a stroller
for vegetable lessons. Students pass in numbers,
rarely glancing, full of rich self-involvement,
on occasion fingering a leaf, as if inspecting plastic.
Once, only, a short fellow in overalls
reached out and plucked a tomato (surely the best)
and strode off, unabashed, unpunished,
and (as he imagined) unobserved."



Four years searching. Nothing but soured hopes.
I'd heard him, often enough,
grandly sporting from song to song.
But by the look of it, you'd think
this is strictly jay country,
whole trees full, permitting only the odd sparrow.
I'd just about given up, really.
Then, last Tuesday, off as always to the subway,
I passed the corner street-sign, hardly
worth a glance. But there, ample and bold,
as if asserting principality,
he sat, peering down at me,
flicked an indifferent tail, flew,
all with a grey-brown benevolence.



Along the Path

"So quickly, without a moment's warning, does the miraculous swerve and point to us."
     — Mary Oliver

Why only that one wall, just the one section?
Don't paints fade? Surely that wild lavender
can't date back to when this was
a sleepy rail right-of-way, and nobody cared
if kids spent half the day wall-painting.
Now, does somebody (armed with ladder and pail)
come by moonlight, silently, to awaken
that auroral blending, those coded hieroglyphs?
I'm almost moved to take up jogging, to pass by
more often, dawn or nightfall, to wonder.
That handbill—"This path will close
March 24-31 to allow demolition
of an adjacent building"—pray it's an April Fool's joke.


John Hildebidle settled in the Boston area to attend Harvard. After many years of academic work there, and a period teaching in a public junior high, he took a position teaching English, American, and Irish literature at MIT, where he is now. He lives with his family in North Cambridge, has published three volumes of poetry (one, Defining Absence, still in print, and available on the web from salmonpoetry.com). A fourth is due out from Salmon Publishing in 2004. He has also published one volume of short fiction and two of the sort of "scholarly" books that win tenure.
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