This summer my nephew
is old enough for his first job:
mowing the lawn.
I watch him lean his skinny chest
to the bar of the pushmower,
put his weight into it, and become,
for the first time, a beast in harness,
a laborer on the face of the earth,
somehow withering and expanding at the same time
into something worn and ancient, but still
a kid withal. And I remember
how bitterly I went into the traces,
hating that Saturday ritual
for a while, then growing inexplicably
into it, gradually mastering
the topography of the yard,
sometimes using the back and forth technique,
sometimes going for the checkerboard effect,
or my favorite, the ever-diminishing square
that left, at the lawn’s center, one
last uncut stand of grass, a wild fortress
I annihilated with a strange thrill,
then stood back to take a look—
to survey the field. To cast
a critical eye on my work.
Just as this kid is doing, standing
at the edge of the mowed clearance.
Taking his own measure. And liking it.
“Tamed” by George Bilgere, from The Good Kiss. © University of Akron Press, 1980.