Respect for fair use and copyright prevent me from quoting the poem in its entirety — at one run without interruption. An impulse to praise and its many virtues make me quote bit by bit with interspersed commentary. First off the title:
It is the twelfth poem in the 99 collected by David W. McFadden under the title What’s the Score?. It is written in couplets. The first of the couplets presents a bald statement about the nature of hobbies and the subject’s time of life.
Gardening and photography, his hobbies
went together like old age and death.
From this laconic beginning, the reader moves to a bit of narrative about abandoning the implements of the vocation to a child described as “sticky-fingered” which leads one to believe the gift is a pre-empting of theft.
I understood when he grew tired and gave
his Leica to his sticky-fingered son.
Our narrator poet understands giving up on the future but is a bit flummoxed by the erasure of the marks of the past.
But when he committed to the flames his entire
collection of slides of glorious dahlias
Note here that the couplet doesn’t close off as do the preceding. It carries over, we expect something from this cremation.
that he’d cultivated over a lifetime
and flowers of all kinds from around the district
And as the sentences spill over the lines, the lifetime, a stretch in time becomes figured as an increasing distance from home and our subject’s glorious dahlias; the gardening interest grows a geographic spread.
or from botanical gardens around the world —
I looked into his eyes and asked him why.
The question is immediately answered:
“No one was interested.” Tears appeared.
This was in his early seventies.
The staccato of these short sentences offer a sharp contrast with the flow of the previous lines. Indeed in this poem, there is a constant erosion of the previous tempos and rhythms in a way that supplements the narrative undermining of closure. As expected the poem takes a new turn:
He had several years left of growing flowers
but they blossomed and faded unphotographable.
This is the end but note that the poet narrator doesn’t describe the flowers of this late blooming as “unphotographed” but as “unphotographable”. As if the capacity for image making itself was impaired. Furthermore this turn to the unphotographable blossoming and fading is ambiguous. It may be a loss for one of the hobbies we started out with is gone. It may signal an enriched appreciation for the one hobby that is left: gardening. One is not quite sure if the stress is on the fading or the growing. Just who is enlightened remains a mystery.
And so for day 1092