for John Gladden and his trailer park

Old man Gladden
Came for me on his blue tractor.
He’d pull up in the yard
And I’d get my things–
Pocketknife and silver clippers.

I dug out the dirt,
Dirt from the turnip-green fields,
Dirt from his plough and plotted plants,
Dirt that he couldn’t get out.
Dirt that waited for me.

I pushed the dull pocketknife
Back into its shell.

Then, the silver clippers.
I’d cut his nails–
Worrying not to cut into the quick
Of his old shaky fingers,
Careful as a little girl could be.
My pink-as-pigs fingers shaking too.

I’d finish and give him a smile.
He’d carry on for a while
On the porch with my grandparents–
Sitting a spell.

As he’d stand to go,
He’d reach into his denim overalls
For my ‘fee’.

A quarter for digging out the dirt,
A quarter for his clean clipped nails.