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Wednesday, August 23, 2017


by Jennifer Clark

Photo by Nathan Atkinson on Unsplash

I do as Greg says, for five minutes, three times a day.
I feel silly, sifting my fingers through a medley of dried
lentils, black-eyed peas, and rice, trying to grab and release.
Instead, my right hand wants to pull the skyscraper of weeds
rising through the weigela. My thumb and forefinger itch to pinch
the dead heads of zinnias and marigolds. I should be thinning
the obedient plants, trimming the crazy-haired boxwood.
There is so much work to do in this world.

Attempting to grab and release, my hand wants to seize and shake
the trumpet vine that my well-intentioned neighbors planted.
The orange thug invades the garden with fire and fury.
It loves to feast on fences, has been known to break windows
and pry the siding off homes. Round Up and yelling don’t work.

As the trumpet vine threatens to take over the neighborhood,
I recall one weary gardener’s opinion: it is not a plant, but a form
of domestic terrorism. Here is the best way to handle this noxious
vine that thrives in poor soil yet can attract the sweetest hummingbirds:
Do not ignore it.

Left locked and loaded to its own devices, it will only
displace desirable vegetation. Call it by its true names:
Campis radicans and cow-itch. Don’t fight it. Give it
excessive care. Water it. Nourish the soil. Love it to death.

We can not give up on this good world, even as it slips
through our fingers, we must keep trying. So, go ahead,
roll up your sleeves, plunge into this seeded and weedy
life, and grab and release. Grab and release.

Jennifer Clark, whose left hand wrote this poem, is the author of Necessary Clearings (Shabda Press). Her second poetry collection Johnny Appleseed: The Slice and Times of John Chapman is forthcoming from Shabda Press. She lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.