THE NATURE OF THINGS
By Janet R. Kirchheimer
I was eleven the spring my father singed his eyebrows off
while burning down pear trees.
Anne Carson says dirt is a minor thing.
This is not true.
Perhaps she has not seen a string bean pushing
its way up through the dirt.
The Rabbis say that Adam gave names to all the animals,
but do not say who named the trees.
These are some of the plant names I love:
Joseph’s coat, Persian shield, Silver shrub, African mallow.
Once in January, my father woke me at four o’clock in the morning
to help cover the parsley in our garden with blankets.
Frost was on the ground.
Stars, so bright at that time of the year, lit the garden.
In June, I call home to ask my father about the gladiolas.
He says some are coming, some are going.
The Talmud says occasionally rain falls because of the merit
of one man, the merit of one blade of grass, of one field.
Today’s poem was was previously published by the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, and appears here today with permission from the poet.
Janet R. Kirchheimer is the author of How to Spot One of Us. She is currently producing a documentary, “After,” about poetry of the Holocaust then and now, and is a teaching fellow at Clal-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
Editor’s Note: Unearth the humble offerings of today’s poem and discover what grows from its rich soil. What love, what relationship, what sage advice about life. This is a poem as intimate as tending one’s own garden, and as universal as studying scripture. How wise, how simple, how sage. How lovely today’s poem, with all its offerings.