Sisyphus must have been a
Ergonica Weed Poetry Winner for April, 2001
Out here, by the hot street on the other side of
beyond our dearly purchased salvias and maples,
cosmos from seed
and divided daylily and glad mementos,
and other civilized plants whom we address by all their names,
(linnaean and nick),
Only the uninvited do we call "Weed"
Those are buddleia and asclepias, thank you,
not butterflyweed and milkweed.
We've sent out missionaries to live among the bind-, stick-,
dollar- and duckweed,
and quackgrass and nutgrass.
We've planted phlomis and silver germander (whose secret mission
choke them out),
and double flowering purple Datura.
(Jamestown weed has deep set roots in American soil,
plus it stops the cars and attracts neighbors.)
So too for those Beverly Sills irises from the garden festival,
who blooms loud and, unlike Mimi, stays oblivious to the
botanical rabble at her swollen feet.
But these floral stars are stranded here in this community of
a scrabbly alliance whose interwoven roots go deeper than I am
willing to dig
on this shadeless corner
and so far from the places where I usually leave the shovel.
So I learn from some of them.
The thistle looks so wickedly armed it tricks you into leaving it
or going for the gloves.
But with gloves you can't feel the tender, drinking-straw
to know if you are breaking it off.
This is what it wants you to do,
like the tear-away tailed lizards and purple hairstreak
whose hind wings look more like heads than their heads.
These soft-prickled weeds can be pulled barehanded.
You must maintain as much contact as you can
to spread a gentle pressure.
Hold too tight in one place and it breaks off its stalk:
the part we know it by.
Unlike us, its life is underground, but like us, so much of
it is unseen.
Give it no sympathy.
Pull it so lowly you can't detect any progress, only the
taproot's gentle resistance.
Your doubts and its hopes disappear together, for a while
undetected by you and your expiring partner.
But when the roots at last yield their sweet earthly grasp,
you are certain.
Still some win.
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