The Length of Days

Sharon H. Nelson

"The Length of Days" appeared in Matrix and in The Work of Our Hands, The Muses' Press, 1993.

The way you leave the garden now
is how you'll find it in the spring.
Eve, with rake and broom on hand sweeps leaves,
squints into the wan November sun and sees
the broadening sky, the truth of the clichés
the gardening books proclaim.

She's tried to open Adam's eyes.
Centuries she's spent
tidying caves and tents,
sweeping broken toys,
patching broken boys,
listening to the noise
of what he makes and rends.

More patient than the trees
that bear and shed their leaves,
Eve leans into the wind,
begins the task again
of explaining to her man
this simple lesson:
The way you leave the garden now
is how you'll find it in the spring.

The days shorten.
The November light foreshadows.
We sense dusk
closing in.

The November light reveals
the naked shapes of things.
We see their silhouettes,
their very skeletons.
We cannot help but see,
though we shut our eyes in pain,
how slowly Adam learns.
He litters where he goes
from the cradle to the grave.

Eve, mother, sister, wife,
is cast to spend her life,
cluttered by cleaning.

She stands,
rake in hand,
squints to measure
this year's chances.

She sees
in fallen leaves
the fall of man.

She holds the rake and broom
then sweeps the leaves
out of his line of vision.

There is something satisfying,
and sometimes something pleasant
in being the world's housekeeper
except in November when the light's so clean
one cannot escape acknowledging what one sees:
the length of days shortening;
the days themselves shortening;
and the time to teach or learn shortening.
Adam's so busy that he cannot think of spring.

Sharon H. Nelson. 15 March 1999.