Bamboo

poem ending with lines from Natalie d’Arbeloff’s
translation of “Motivo” by Cecília Meireles

Bamboo can be food, its tender shoots
stripped and swirled in flavorful hot
oils in a basin of well-seasoned steel.
It can be nourishing, bamboo.

Bamboo can be a habitat, a refuge
of tall green pillars, camouflage
safety, welcome shack with shade.
It can be sufficient home, bamboo.

Bamboo can be long tubes, dried
and cut, angled beneath the splashing
of the fountain or the roof, accepting
in its hollowness, directing water’s journey.
It can be a flowing pipe, bamboo.

Bamboo can be lumber, cut and dried
and tied, a fence to keep the garden
safe at home, a ladder for the beans
and roses climbing upward for the sun.
It can create a paradise, bamboo.

And yet, the ones that speak, when they
speak of bamboo, they do not talk of
new growth in loving terms, slanted braids
in glazed ceramic pots, their overlapping
angles secured in ribbon-gold —
it can be beautiful, bamboo —

but rather of a war, of daily sweat,
of stomping each new shoot
that emerges in the yard, of broken
mowers, of heavier metals, of
trying new solutions to repel
this invasive enemy, bamboo.

Nourishing, sufficient home,
a flowing pipe, a paradise,
this lucky-braided beautiful —
it is not welcome here, bamboo.

But those who listen can still
hear it whisper as it grows:

I sing because the moment exists
and my life is complete.

And one day I know that I’ll be mute:
— that’s all.

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