Old Hoes and Hoeing

by John Updike

I sometimes fear the younger generation
will be deprived
of the pleasures of hoeing;
there is no knowing
how many souls have been formed by this
simple exercise.

The dry earth like a great scab breaks,
moist-dark loam --the pea-root's home,
a fertile wound perpetually healing.

How neatly the great weeds go under!
The blade chops the earth new.
Ignorant the wise boy who
has never rendered thus the world

Many thanks to my former next door neighbor (and still neighbor to my mom and sister) for sending me this poem on hoeing. He is the one who planted the trees that I wrote about early in July. His son heard the poem and sent it to him, and he sent it to me.

Many thanks to the colleague at work who helped me acquire these new-to-me old hoes to add to my hoe collection.

Many thanks that I have not been deprived of the pleasures of hoeing!


  1. Just how many hoes do you have!

  2. I'll admit I may have a few more hoes than are probably absolutely necessary to garden. Some are good, some not so good, some are old, some are new.

  3. I think you're avoiding answering the question!

  4. Carol - How funny, but I heard this John Updike essay/poem on hoeing on NPR this morning - and I thought that I should find it for you! So I googled it and this post showed up. I should have known! I had never heard the passage before - how perfect it is!

  5. Now that John can perpetually hoe and cultivate his garden, I should give you the last line that appears in my collection of "Telephone Poles," where I first saw tis poem:

    ".Ignorant the wise boy who
    has never performed this simple, stupid, and useful wonder."


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