Nature Studies

Marloe Mens



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.


The Learned Pig



O snail
so slow
so low
we can hardly
far enough
to see
what might be
the cosmic


The Learned Pig



Everybody likes pawpaw
but some don’t like it planted
too near the house.
Me too.
I know for a fact
that tree will sap your strength
waste your muscle
draw you down
to skin and bone.
To nutten.
An ol’lady
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
or mutton
and wait
and see
if it don’t draw it down
to nutten.
Just like the ol’lady did say.


Olive SeniorThese 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.


The Learned Pig


Olive Senior

Olive Senior is a Jamaican poet, novelist, short story and non-fiction writer based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She was awarded the Musgrave Gold Medal in 2005 by the Institute of Jamaica for her contributions to literature. In her own words: "I've been meandering across borders all my life and continue to do so, and my writing career is a reflection of that: I write in different genres - fiction, non-fiction, poetry. I have publishers in Jamaica, England, Canada and the USA. I'm of mixed background racially and socially. I travel a great deal. I live in several different worlds. But, 'If crab no walk, him nuh see worl' and I'm the perpetual seeker."