Saturday, August 1, 2009

Prairie Poem

I've been feeling very creatively backed up-- which makes me simultaneously anxious and depressed, all sorts of bad cycling going on. I want to write, think, read, have time to range around in my life of the mind, and I haven't the time or energy for it. So I get overwrought, which isn't pretty.
Last week's project photographing and identifying the prairie flowers kind of set me off. It might be all those names swirling around in my brain. But mostly it was something I wrote off-hand about the grey-headed coneflowers. They're sort of the ubiquitous and most important/identifiable prairie flower. And in a way they're like the saddest daisies. Their petals hang down. The petals are thin and straggly. Like a paper hula skirt or child's crumpled dance costume. I wrote: "the grey-headed coneflowers with their second-hand skirts." That was it, the only piece of poetry I seemed to have in me. But there it was nonetheless, a piece of poetry in me.

The book I finished reading today on Emergent Christianity has also got me worked up. I can't figure out what it is or what it means, exactly, and I remain skeptical while at the same time thinking it could be talking about me. It's possible. They use words like "community" and "conversation," to keep it open and undefined. But there are still so many buzz words on the pages of the blogs and web sites about it. Is it just another form of the great evangelical "church for the non-churched"? There is a lot I don't know, and I can't figure out quite how to learn it. This is the great thing about life, of course. It does get me a little charged up, though.

And just before dinner, I worked on this poem. It doesn't yet have an ending, just a place-holder, but I just needed to get the names out there, get things shaped a bit...I need something to happen in it somehow, to make it become a poem. I do like the second-hand skirts, and the caterpillars on stems... The photo above is blue vervain, possibly my favorite. One could certainly write a whole poem about them, couldn't one?

Prairie Restoration

After plowing and herbicide
and burning and more
herbicide and seeding,

after years of weeds
and weed seeds stirred up,
and spraying, dying back,

to get to some ground
that doesn’t remember
a century of farming,

then we have prairie,
all that’s taken hold,
distinct and nameable:

blue vervain, aster, bergamot,
purple and white prairie clover
like caterpillars on stems,

water hemlock by the pond,
loosestrife, false sunflower,
its cousin, black-eyed Susan,

germander and partridge pea,
milkweed and yarrow,
coreopsis and butterfly bush,

and queen of them all,
the homely prairie coneflowers
with their second-hand skirts.
They sway and bend
like a children's ballet:
no technique, vulnerable.

They summon the bees,
the butterflies, the birds,
the weaving and darting bugs,

the small and large lights,
they take it back,
they take it all back.

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