Plants are deceptive. You see them there
looking as if once rooted they know
their places; not like animals, like us
always running around, leaving traces.
Yet from the way they breed (excuse me!)
and twine, from their exhibitionist
and rather prolific nature, we must infer
a sinister not to say imperialistic
grand design. Perhaps you’ve regarded,
as beneath your notice, armies of mangrove
on the march, roots in the air, clinging
tendrils anchoring themselves everywhere?
The world is full of shoots bent on conquest,
invasive seedlings seeking wide open spaces,
materiel gathered for explosive dispersal
in capsules and seed cases.
Maybe you haven’t quite taken in the
colonizing ambitions of hitchhiking
burrs on your sweater, surf-riding nuts
bobbing on ocean, parachuting seeds and other
airborne traffic dropping in. And what
about those special agents called flowers?
Dressed, perfumed, and made-up for romancing
insects, bats, birds, bees, even you –
– don’t deny it, my dear, I’ve seen you
sniff and exclaim. Believe me, Innocent,
that sweet fruit, that berry, is nothing
more than ovary, the instrument to seduce
you into scattering plant progeny. Part of
a vast cosmic program that once set
in motion cannot be undone though we
become plant food and earth wind down.
They’ll outlast us, they were always there
one step ahead of us: plants gone to seed,
generating the original profligate,
extravagant, reckless, improvident, weed.
we can hardly
what might be
Everybody likes pawpaw
but some don’t like it planted
too near the house.
I know for a fact
that tree will sap your strength
waste your muscle
draw you down
to skin and bone.
told me that.
It’s better to plant it
the far side of the fence.
You can laugh
and call it superstitious
but if you want proof
just wrap pawpaw leaf
round a tough piece of beef
if it don’t draw it down
Just like the ol’lady did say.
These poems are from the series Nature Studies, originally published in Olive Senior, Gardening in the Tropics, 1994.
Republished here with kind permission from the publisher, Insomniac Press.
Image credit: Marloe Mens.
This is part of The Learned Pig’s Tuin Stemmen (Garden Voices) editorial season, autumn-winter 2018/19. Guest editor: Marloe Mens.