by John Ortman
“Hello, neighbor,” he said, reaching across the leaning wire
with a strong hand calloused by the hoeing,
to make me welcome;
Handing me some garden tomatoes all his own.
His smile and tired blue eyes were true
and warm like wool worn out of doors
His gentle strength ended doubts of what to say.
In time, I too, tended to my own garden
and gave, at first to him out of sense of debt
But then, later, out of ’cause I wanted to.
His thank yous were true and full,
our sharing meant to be sincere.
The gardens stretched between the fence
became our evening meeting place
each meeting ending with a smile and perhaps
a deeper knowledge of our garden selves:
Separate, yet nourished by the same earth
Turned under with a momentary shudder of regret.
John Ortman, a retired federal program manager in teacher professional development, lives year-round on Chappy.