Appalachian Barren Strawberry

Barren Strawberry by Jennifer Schlick
Appalachian Barren Strawberry by Jennifer Schlick (click to see larger)

Waldsteinia fragarioides

“stay together
learn the flowers
go light”
—Gary Snyder, “For the Children

Don’t let the clearing the loggers left
remain desolate.
Grow an evergreen blanket
over the grave
of a tree’s shadow.

Treat each knot as a chance
to sprout adventitious roots
or open a still
& turn sunshine into sugar,
but go easy on the upward mobility:
keep your leaves & flowers
close-knit.

Say grace before raising
your pollen-heavy heads
to the ministering bee.

Neither barren nor strawberry,
keep your fruit small & hard
& your roots non-medicinal
so nobody but the birds will bother you.

Stay together.
Learn the humans.
Stow light.

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11 Comments


  1. Am thinking this poem might be better off if it lost the Snyder reference and ended in different way. My attempts to be clever always seem to fall flat.

    Reply

  2. I don’t think it fell flat at all, dave. I like your advice to the barren strawberry. I actually take it to heart myself.

    Reply

    1. Oh really? Believe it or not, I thought of you and Roger when I was writing this, I guess because you’re the closest to Snyder, both in spirit and in physical space (he’s still in the Sierra Nevadas, right?), of anyone I know.

      Isn’t the light wonderful in Jennifer’s photo?

      Reply

      1. I believe it, dave. Any reference to Gary Snyder goes straight to my heart. Yes, he’s still here in the Sierra Nevadas.

        Yes, the light in that photo is lovely. The sight of a flower in winter is a light itself.

        Reply

  3. I’m thinking it doesn’t need the epigraph/epigram (embarrassed that I can’t recall the difference on a Sunday morning.) It is a lovely, enticing lyric all on it’s own.

    Reply

    1. What I’m thinking is that I may place the Snyder quote in the preface to the whole collection, which would obviate the need to repeat it here as an epigraph. (I always have to stop and think which is which myself, but generally I think an epigram is free-standing, as the Greek Epigrams.)

      Reply

  4. It’s worse for me: my attempts at being deep always fall shallow.

    But this is better than clever. I love instruction in a poem. One of my favorite Philip Booth poems does that. And I particularly like:

    Grow an evergreen blanket
    over the grave
    of a tree’s shadow.

    and

    but go easy on the upward mobility:
    keep your leaves & flowers
    close-knit.

    Reply

    1. Thanks. Obviously I was playing with received notions of Appalachianness at a couple points, such as with the close-knit reference. And the flowers or their co-geners are in fact exploited by humans to some extent for ground-covers in gardens. Their very close-knitedness makes them sought-after commodities. If/when I revise this poem, I might try to bring that in.

      Reply

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