Bill Holm

My son Matt sent this reflection by Minnesota poet Bill Holm (d. 2009)

Bill Holm and fellow Minnesotan Garrison Keillor


The Man Who Threw Nothing Away

My old friend Leonard believed in throwing nothing away, either inside or outside except maybe Republicans and the lust for money, so he stayed alive an entire eighty years.  In America, some die at forty, most by fifty or sixty, though they go on driving cars and expressing opinions for decades while their visible graves, already lined with concrete, await them and their goods.  Leonard believed in healthy chickens, proper gardens, rich compost, scrap lumber, the intelligence of children, and that much in this universe can be fixed with duct tape but little with money.  He filled his garage with broken parts and single gloves, because you never know when things might come in handy.

From one angle a small man, from another, he grew huge as he aged by sporting a fine white mustache, never forgetting a story, and falling in love every day till he was past eighty.  The interior man grew heavier, wiser, even happier, till the earth itself started singing loud songs to beckon him down inside it.  The earth wanted better company than humans had been giving it lately.

On a fine damp Bellingham morning, Leonard went with a spade to open his compost heap, his joy and visible emblem of the man who saves everything.  When he dug in, a cloud of fine steam billowed up around his snowy mustache while the tabernacle chorus of compost sang to him in twelve harmonic parts of loud silence: Come, from this we rise, to this we go, from this we come again, Inside our rotting vibrant heart, your whole life churns and steams, waiting for you to join it.  You have ripened like fine late grapes, full of unexpected sugar and flavor.  Now its time for us to save you for a century or two.

Two women who loved him took pictures of that steam and the look on his face that might even be transfiguration, but maybe only wryness, for he knew and they knew what others didn’t, that once more, nothing is being thrown away at all.

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