Alan: Johnny was a gentle soul. He welcomed us back-to-the-landers, made his near-empty store a place for the food co-op to break down bulk orders, and always had a few donuts around for any kids who stopped by. I miss him.
Johnny Morrison’s Garden
Some folks take a long time dying
if they die at all. Johnny’s like that:
it was a year ago – last Fourth of July –
I saw him sitting on his stoop watching the parade.
You could tell he was dying by the way he waved –
weak, kind of glum – his face fading
like July sun when the fog pours in off the sea,
the smile still there but all the sparkle gone.
Next we heard, he was over at Ocean View,
and we knew it was just a matter of time.
He’d have given up: some folks don’t transplant.
I didn’t visit – couldn’t bring myself to go –
as I watched his storefront geraniums slowly brown and droop.
I wonder, when he packed, did he leave the table
set, as usual, for himself, Mother and one guest?
“Don’t sit there,” he’d say, as you reached
for the dusty chair, “that’s Mother’s place.”
His voice apologizing, like she’d just stepped out
and would be back a little late for supper.
Then he’d start: “Mother – she’s 102 now – ,” family
always present tense, and all of them gone
years before. Johnny’s home at last.
So just today, we were discussing Johnny Morrison’s garden.
“It’s a wet one – always was...”
“He put in a lot of sand, but I don’t know if it’s done much good...”
and I thought, Johnny hasn’t died yet in this town
and I doubt he will, until all of us have too.
It will always be Johnny Morrison’s store, and Johnny Morrison’s woods,
and as long as there are powdered sugar doughnuts
we’ll be thinking that maybe he’ll be out to see us
Sunday with a box. Johnny’s geraniums are gone
and the store is boarded up,
but we know his garden is back there, wet and clayey as ever,
and – whatever else fails –
the Johnny Jump-ups will have come on strong.
Nancy: Do those old migratory tides still flow in our veins?
Weather Report: Straight Bay: Last Week of April
The low moves offshore.
Hawks cast over the field and over the spruce.
Geese ribbon out in Vs.
A heron tribe gathers to fish and rest.
The heavy overcast gives way to sun.
Hawks come out of the sun;
they come out of dark shadows; they wheel
and fall; they watch.
Geese waver out to the east,
offshore, toward Musquash marsh and Shubenacadie,
toward the eelgrass beds in the bay at Willet Rocks.
Herons lift and flare with the ebb and flow of the tides,
from the upper bay to the small coves notched out of the shore,
from the bluff by the apple tree
to the saltmarsh beyond Clam Rock.
The wind swings round and comes out of the south and west.
And it plucks at me, a fixed point, a pole star, lodged,
deep-rooted, in place, enduring, not
discontented, and yet
all this motion tugs at me;
It tugs at me.
“Johnny Morrison’s Garden” and “Weather Report: Straight Bay: Last Week in April” first appeared in Slow Dancer magazine.