A painting of Deb for no particular occasion

Deb is in the garden, on her knees, she is wearing that red-checked lumber shirt, her right hand is smoothing dirt—and her left hand is holding a trowel.

I am at the kitchen window watching her. Why does this give me so much pleasure?

Because I love her in countless ways and because I love the thought of her plants breaking out of black soil: all those tiny green resurrections—such surfeit hope.

Trowel! I love that trowel. Maybe we should get more…stock up on them. What if there’s a run on trowels by men who were watching their wives in the garden and fell in love all over again.

There must be lots of trowels at Lee Valley, perhaps many different and interesting kinds. It would make you happy just to see her wandering the trowel aisle.

If I were a painter I’d paint Deb in the garden: turned slightly away, her back bent toward the ground, the trowel, silver from wear, the sun just under her blue cap, catching the slight depression in her cheek.

Maybe she’d be standing in the middle of the peas that finally started growing full and tall under her smile. Smiling peas. Tendrils hugging her thighs.

I can see my painting in a famous European gallery. People saying, “Oh look, all the suggestions of Elysium! The heart at peace, what depth!”

It would be Deb’s favourite. Right after her “Mother God” painting of the white-haired women reading, in a flower garden, under a clothesline hung with laundry.

The painting of Deb lingering in the garden would bring you joy tears. And you’d never know what was in her mind, there in the garden: just a stream, flowing, deep or shallow or tumbling empty over bright rocks.

Did she see the white-tailed jackrabbit by the juniper? Does she need more compost? Will she need to visit Mick in the hospital? (He left the shelter.) Are her staff happy? Should she go to the Enjoy Centre for new cuttings? Who would she run away with, a counsellor or a gardener?

The gardener would have finely honed stone trowels and a garden above the ancient cliffs of Rafina that run along the Aegean Sea. See the peas’ tiny tendrils waving goodbye.

Or maybe a counsellor. They would live at The Chelsea, dine in The Village, at The Stanton, discuss narrative therapy late into the evening, the chef gone home, gentle sound of dishes being stacked behind the swinging door.

What if I was a counsellor who loved to garden? My clients coming to me behind the house, content to sit on the freshly mown grass, me on my knees thinning carrots, listening with quiet intensity, like a sage, and Deb watching me from the kitchen window.

Wouldn’t that make a painting!


(This bit of prose poetry was inspired by Deb, summer memories, and the poems of James Tate—it’s something like an extended riff on Tate’s, “At the clothesline.”)


  1. If all men were so in love with their wives -so poetic – so ecstatic over the ordinary moments that have such depth there would be no need of counsellors!

    You are a wonderful poet whose images are bronzed in emotional memory ….

    Be blessed as you are a blessing

  2. The author of this prose-poem reveals his involvement with his subject and indeed has painted an Elysium word picture framed by a garden. Wonderful exchange of master artists!!

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