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Poetry Moment: 'A Gardener's Prayer', by Gabriel Welsch

This is poetry moment on WPSU – a weekly program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Your host is poet and author Marjorie Maddox, a 2023 Monson Arts Fellow, and professor of English and creative writing at the Lock Haven campus of Commonwealth University. 

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Half-farmer, half-magician, gardeners bring us the lovely crocus—and too many zucchini. As winter approaches, former landscape designer Gabriel Welsch offers his experience and insight in “A Gardener’s Prayer.”

Gabriel Welsch has lived in eastern, western, and central Pennsylvania and has worked at three different Pennsylvania educational institutions: Penn State, Juniata College, and now Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where he lives with his family. He prefers Wawa to Sheetz, the Steelers to the Eagles, and Happy Valley to Valley Forge. He is the author of a collection of short stories, Groundscratchers, and four poetry collections, including The Four Horsepersons of a Disappointing Apocalypse.

To paraphrase The Wizard of Oz, if you want to find your heart’s desire, look no further than your own backyard: in our case, not for the Emerald City, but for the green of gardens. Gardening teaches us to prepare and persist, to both slow down and work hard. Gabriel Welsch’s “A Gardener’s Prayer” comes from his 2006 book, appropriately titled Dirt and All Its Dense Labor. In this lush but realistic poem, he desires for himself the quiet passing of crocus leaves in winter.

Here’s A Gardener’s Prayer by Gabriel Welsch

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Ice glazes the spines of crocus leaves
a whorl of grass
like tufts of glass. Cold’s chime
soothes this place—

where winter’s last grip
of the long cold
afterward feels as though it went
quickly, a whisper

in a darkened train, while I rode
between stops unsure
I heard it until days later
it clattered through my dreams

toward morning with certainty.
I seldom need
reminding that I’ll die— the sun
each day replays that truth.

The gritty nature of how
lives as a breath
worrying my ear. Amid crocus leaves
I dream a quiet end. May it be

as easy for me as a glaze of ice about
my leaves, a slick
of water to seal my eyes,
a cloud’s weight to push me back to earth.

(Originally appeared in 5AM, 2003)

That was “A Gardener’s Prayer” by Gabriel Welsch.

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Listen for Poetry Moment with Marjorie Maddox Mondays during Morning Edition and All Things Considered on WPSU. You can more episodes at

Our theme music is by Eric Ian Farmer.

Marjorie Maddox is the host of WPSU's Poetry Moment for the 2023-24 season. She has been a professor of English and creative writing since 1990 at the Lock Haven campus of Commonwealth University.