Weeding

After a rain,
the weeds yield
to the gentlest tug,

even the deep-rooted dock
& the brittle rhizomes
of brome grass:

they let go, they give up
their fistfuls of dirt to
a few hard shakes,

& for at least
one morning out of
all those that are left to me

it feels as if I am winning
this tug-of-war
with the earth.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

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  1. I love the way this flows through from start to finish – an easy, fluid quality of release and all being right with a little bit of the world.

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    1. Thanks. I wanted to see what would happen if I tried to write a love poem, but not being in love with anyone, I guess I turned it into a mortality poem instead.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by. I wasn’t familiar with Denis Johnson, but the Academy of American Poets has a page on him with links to three sample poems — good stuff.

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  2. don’t stop! next battle: the flowerbeds in the sherwoods’ front and back yards! :)

    i love this: “one morning out of/ all those that are left to me/ i feel as if i am winning …”

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    1. Thanks, Carolee! I was reading some Jean Follain this morning (W.S. Merwin’s translation, The Transparence of the World) and I think a little of his language crept in there.

      Don’t you have three boys? They should be weeding your gardens for you. Bribes might work.

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  3. I get a feeling like that too sometimes. Weeding feels different than pruning for me. I especially like the second stanza and those consonants, the brittleness they bring. I am enjoying Odes to Tools, by the way. Ordered it new from Amazon.

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    1. Yeah, pruning can be satisfying in its own way but it’s a more cerebral kind of satisfaction, I think.

      I really wanted “dock” to be “yellow dock,” but it was just too many syllables. Glad you like the result.

      Thanks for ordering the Odes!

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  4. Why hasn’t someone thought of this before now? Nice equipoise, too, between the mundane and the eternal.

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    1. Thanks. I’d be surprised if someone hasn’t already thought of everything here, actually — and that doesn’t bother me. I aim for originality, not for novelty.

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  5. I love this one, Dave. Sadly my gardening tools are not gifted with speech as are yours. I have this seedy weedy tug of war daily, and in not such post rain favorable conditions.

    The earth does seem to be fighting back with a vengeance lately though, since we punched a big hole in its undersea crust. Perhaps, though, it’s bleeding more than fighting.

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    1. Thanks, Joan. The earth will win in the end, but if past mass extinctions are any guide, it may take as long as 10 million years to regain the same degree of biological diversity and ecosystem resilience it had before humans went viral.

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      1. 10 million years is very good news! I’d read an estimate of 200 million a few years back.

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          1. Ten million years is still one hell of a long time, though! Homo sapiens has only been around for — what? — half a million years?


  6. Yes, as Jean says in the first comment, it has a gentle flow. That sense of the rhythm of the work. Grasp and pull and a soft avalanche of soil giving way. I like the sense of ease in that. Weeding can be relaxing when you’re not having to fight, and the ground willingly yields the invading crop.

    But here in Wales we must wait for the next rain… whenever that may be… because right now the earth is concrete hard and the weeds will resist or snap off at the ground.

    A lovely piece Dave.

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    1. Thanks, Clive. Judging from the pictures you’ve posted in your blog, though, I’d hazard a guess that you don’t have quite as many weeds as I do.

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  7. Good one, Dave! The poem captures in simple language a human experience ten thousand years old. The reference to your mortality after referring to the mortality of weeds on weeding day is particularly effective, as others have remarked. A very satisfying poem, this coming from someone who has spent hundreds of hours weeding over the years.

    I’m reminded of Henry Thoreau’s passage in Walden concerning his thoughts about weeding his bean-field: “Many a lusty crest-waving Hector, that towered a whole foot above his crowding comrades, fell before my weapon and rolled in the dust.”

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    1. I forgot about that part of Walden. I’m impressed that you can quote it from memory! And I’m glad that my poem resonated with your own experience. Thanks for commenting.

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  8. You’ve really messed me up by saying this is/ was in some part a love poem.

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    1. Well, it started out that way, but none of those lines survived to the final draft.

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  9. That was a lovely weed metaphor from Walden, Larry : “Many a lusty crest-waving Hector, that towered a whole foot above his crowding comrades, fell before my weapon and rolled in the dust.”

    It reminded me of Dave’s Scythes poem where the Scythes have flashbacks of harvesting. I’m assuming these ‘crowds’ are wheat but in my patch, the ‘crowds’ are weed grasses, which do not respond to a scythe. Only yanking.

    Do you remember?
    they murmur, how
    the crowds
    would lose their heads
    & stand like soldiers,
    stiff, when the wind
    moved through?

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    1. Yep, wheat was what I had in mind. Thanks for quoting that, Joan! Gosh, what an ideal blog commenter. :)

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  10. It helps to have great material! :)

    Reply

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