Denise Levertov

A Figure of Time

Old Day the gardener seemed
Death himself, or Time, scythe in hand

by the sundial and freshly-dug
grave in my book of parables.

The mignonette, the dusty miller and silvery
rocks in the garden next door

thrived in his care (the rocks
not hidden by weeds but clear-

cut between tufts 
of fern and saxifrage.) Now

by our peartree with pruning-hook,
now digging the Burnes’s neat, weedless

rosebeds, or as he peered
at a bird in Mrs. Peach’s laburnum,

his tall stooped person appeared, and gray
curls. He worked

slow and in silence, and knew perhaps
every garden around the block, gardens

we never saw, each one,
bounded by walls of old brick,

a square plot that was
world to itself.

When I was grown
and gone from home he remembered me

in the time of my growing, and sent,
year by year, salutations,

until there was no one there, in
changed times, to send them by. Old Day,

old Death, dusty
gardener, are you

alive yet, do I live on
yet, in your gray

considering eye?