Stephen Ackerman

I Was Reading the Sunlight, I Was Planting the Words on this Page
June 21, 2021 Ackerman Stephen

I Was Reading the Sunlight, I Was Planting the Words on this Page


I know why Cicero says
that I need only a garden
and library to be happy.
He was a public man
with a private life and I was a public man
with a private life. Some of us
are writ large and others small.
Today I planted tarragon
and thyme in the small raised bed
of my garden, as Cicero
may have done in his time,
and peppers and tomatoes
and basil and oregano,
like Cicero, like Cicero,
with seed and dirt and sun.
There was, in the garden,
on a strawberry leaf, a white petal
from a cherry tree, a diaspora
of drifting petals in the air, a late snow,
airlifted from the neighbor’s yard.
The white petal upon inspection
proved to be a moth or butterfly,
but, if a moth, no less beautiful
for being a moth.
My son is young to be so old,
and I am old to be so young,
my hands in the dirt again
wondering how the late afternoon light
in April, barren with gold and green
innuendo, appeared to Cicero,
and whether the small white
butterfly appeared to him
in the Liri Valley in his century,
as it did to me in the Hudson Valley.

Stephen Ackerman worked as an attorney in the Legal Counsel Division of the New York City Law Department for over 30 years, and retired in 2019. His poems have appeared in many publications, including Best New Poets 2010, Boulevard, Columbia Review, Jewish Quarterly, Mudfish, Partisan Review, Ploughshares, Red Wheelbarrow, Salamander, Seneca Review and upstreet, as well as on Poetry Daily and previously in Plume. His poems, “An American in Paris” and “The Sun Pours Forth” are from his debut poetry collection, Late Life, which was selected as the winner of the 2020 Gerald Cable Book Award and will be published by Silverfish Review Press in 2022.