On my way into town, I walk past house No. 417 two or three times a week. Traffic goes by, life goes by, most people just go on by.
It's not the house that you see, anyway, from the street; that's mostly hidden behind overgrown shrubbery and the usual eclectic mix found on rural porches. There's a glider placed in the shade, and the concrete frog in the birdbath has the gleeful expression of frogs the world over. A circular flower bed with more enthusiasm than style asphyxiates itself with growth in the middle of a rough lawn. Not much to look at.
But one day I noticed that the pathway near the steps to the sidewalk at No. 417 had been straddled by a wooden arch. The project looked a little hurried: Lumber-mill scarring showed through the thin white paint on the four-by-four posts.
Then, some weeks later I saw that grape graftlings had been planted on each side of the arch. It hadn't been easy for them to get started climbing the structure, and they seemed to be reaching out for help.
What really got my attention one day was the addition of a swirling sculpture of narrow copper tubing draped over and around the arch, ending in a sky-bound optimistic spiral. Nice idea, I thought, but bad choice of material. Plants don't like copper. They'll back off.
At first, growth of the grapevines was slow, and it seemed that I was right about the copper. But over the next few weeks, a dull blue-green oxidation spread a soft patina over the copper, and the grapes followed their urge to grow, to cover the metal with their spiraling green tendrils.
Soon the two vines had met at a spot higher than my head, and foliage thickened.
Ah, but we weren't done yet.
As the growing season progressed, I noted the arrival of tiny yellowish grapes. Then suddenly a new "crop" appeared – small white paper slips a few inches square; perhaps a dozen, tied with thread to the branches.
I peered at them curiously, wondering what they were. They looked a lot like those labels found on new soft furnishings, the ones that admonish: "Do not remove this tag under penalty...." So that first day, I started to walk law-abidingly by.
But no, I had to look closer. I put down what I was carrying and climbed the two steps so that I stood in the shade of the little arbor. I touched the nearest tag and held it still to read.
What a surprise! They were little poems, dangling there among the coloring grapes, fluttering in the wind, and awaiting readers. Awaiting me. Here's one:
Walking in the asphalt seized park glass reflects sun onto hip-slung sun babies and tipping barefoot ones through earth daisies Clairol Mothers watch for a moment, content.
I liked the hip-slung sun babies, and I've seen the tipping toddlers, too, down in the square just a few blocks away.
I went home, took colored paper – yellow – and composed a minipoem in response:
Cast upon the wind like perfume, shreds of beauty finding a way to double the pleasure the grapes bring.
After some thought, I decided it should be anonymous, like the others. I tied it to the grapevine, among its brothers, and left it, where it hangs yet.