Green plague

This entry is part 9 of 42 in the series Antiphony: Paul Zweig


I’m reading Paul Zweig. This is the ninth poem in the first section of his Selected and Last Poems, followed by my response. See here for details. I’ll remove Zweig’s poems after one week to prevent egregious copyright infringement.

Pastoral Letter
by Paul Zweig

I will name nature’s poisons. . . .

[Remainder of poem removed 8-31-05]

* * * *

Pastoral Spell

I dreamed I drove a sprayer truck
slowly along the berm of a road
in prayerful silence.
Behind me, the red letters of sumac leaves
turned brown
& my rubber gloves shone
like the udders of a cow,

all for the crown vetch
& its hateful pink.

I name the invaders:
buffel grass, barberry, knotweed,
kudzu, privet, leafy spurge.
Cursed be houndstongue & snakehead,
stiltgrass & tree-of-heaven.
A plague on every scourge
of purple loosestrife, hemlock
woolly adelgid, cane toad;
the European rabbit down under,
demonstrating its fabled gift
for multiplication in the wrong abode;
Australian eucalypt in California
stretching resinous leaves toward
the redwood’s portion of the sky;
medusahead rye.

Far from their native countries,
free of restraints, the immigrants
do not swarm; they mob.
They lodge in the earth like shrapnel.
When they sprout,
they are already in full uniform.
The Greeks called them Spartoi,
the Sown.

The only way to get rid of them
was to pit them against each other.

I dreamed of skinning feral cats
& selling their meat at auction:
Fresh mutton, I chanted.
They were slick with the fat of tanagers.

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