Brendan Galvin

Elegy for a Landscaper
July 11, 2013 Galvin Brendan

Elegy for a Landscaper


The holes we find scraped out at the edge

of a paving slab, for instance, so

the cement is a capstone for whatever

goes on beneath.  Gary, you knew  that lives


go on in those underworlds we are only

conscious of when we hoe around plantings

and discover an entrance, or in a hollow stump

where nobody would risk a hand.


Tree pests, creepers and humpers,

drilling bees, chipmunks, even wood rats

are easily explained, but the mind has

other labyrinths it can populate


the way an Oxford don might furnish

a troll kingdom with everything from warts

to mountain tops down there.  These are not

passage graves we can wriggle through

by flashlight to view a stone basin of bones.


Nor would we drink to our diminishment

and enter if we could, as in your way

you did, a laid-off landscaper and veteran

after three rounds of Shock and Awe.


Increasingly wary of human company,

wanting to live among the pines, you chose

a hill beyond town and tunneled for weeks,


strategically poking air holes, and mined

the damp sand to passages and mazes

around the unyielding roots of things,

to end in a bunker the size of a two-car garage.

Brendan Galvin is the author of sixteen collections of poems, with his most recent book, Whirl Is King: Poems from a Life List, published in September 2008. Habitat:  New and Selected Poems 1965-2005 was a finalist for the National Book Award, and he was short-listed for a Pulitzer Prize for Winter Oysters in 1983.