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At Age Ninety My Grandfather No Longer Gardens
Irene Latham

No time, he says, as he lifts my grandmother
from her wheelchair to the toilet and back again
spoons rice and cubed JELL-O past unsmiling lips
into her gaping baby-bird mouth
then eases her onto the sofa, careful
to tuck the beaded flannel beneath her chin.
Meanwhile, what was once jubilant rows
of tassled corn and sturdy pole beans
now snarls like a half-starved dog
whose coat is thick with burrs and tangles,
and as my grandmother’s breath shuffles in and out
my grandfather dreams of tomatoes:
fat Beefsteak and juicy Better Boys,
Early Girls blushing pink then flaming red,
remembers summers spent weeding and watering,
how he’d palm the tomatoes, give them the slightest twist,
then sit back on his heels as the fruit burst
like fireworks against the back of his teeth.

From The Color of Lost Rooms (Blue Rooster Press, 2010), winner of Writer’s Digest’s 19th Annual
Self-Published Book Prize for Poetry.
Used here with the author’s permission.

Irene Latham is a poet and novelist from Birmingham, Alabama, who writes heart-touching tales of unexpected adventure. When she is not writing, you might find her wandering in art museums, reading history books, creating quilts or enjoying the company of her husband and three sons. Learn more about her at


Post New Comment:
Wonderful poem--sensuous and moving. (Nice to meet a Poetry Friday contributor on here.)
Posted 07/16/2012 11:24 AM
Such a beautiful poem, tender and heartrending.
Posted 07/15/2012 06:04 PM
thanks for this, the sentiment as well as the images. ghc
Posted 07/15/2012 03:42 PM
Carol Hauer:
I love that last line. Yep, that's the sensation.
Posted 07/15/2012 03:01 PM
Irene, this is quite lovely. Love those fireworks at the end.
Posted 07/15/2012 02:16 PM
Yes, well done. Aging, inevitable aging, its irrepressible quiescence . . .
Posted 07/15/2012 02:09 PM
There is no way to improve this poem. Thanks and thanks!
Posted 07/15/2012 01:01 PM
evocative, sharp images, fireworks. Well done.
Posted 07/15/2012 12:10 PM
Ginny C.:
So much is expressed, and so well, in this brief poem.
Posted 07/15/2012 11:48 AM
Perfect metaphors, both expressed and implied, and fresh use of verbs (snarls, shuffles, burst). Good poem!
Posted 07/15/2012 11:20 AM
This is a remarkable poem. Has all the elements to bring us to sad and glorious truths. Helen P.
Posted 07/15/2012 11:13 AM
wendy morton:
The fireworks of memories, his garden, his life. Lovely.
Posted 07/15/2012 10:57 AM
Very fine poem! It is heartbreaking and a powerful testament to graceful endurance.
Posted 07/15/2012 07:45 AM
This poem moved me. The image of the grandfather tending to his wife as he once tended his garden is achingly sad and sweet. There's a beautiful economy of language and structure here and images that are simply fine. Thanks
Posted 07/15/2012 07:36 AM
Julianne Carlile:
I love this.
Posted 07/15/2012 07:17 AM
Brava, Irene! This is magnificent.
Posted 07/15/2012 06:38 AM
Donal Mahoney:
When I read something this good and I realize it is the first piece I have read by the author, I ask myself how could I have missed her work in the past. But the internet is a big world and sometimes we have to rely on Your Daily Poem to arrange an introduction. Simply a terrific piece of writing. Hats off to the author and to Your Daily Poem. Wonderful way to start a bright Sunday morning.
Posted 07/15/2012 06:21 AM

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