Poem of Yard Work, with Confederate Jasmine

We drag to the curb for bulk
waste pickup the limbs and branches

shorn off the confederate jasmine
at the end of the yard: they'd bent

too far over the neighbor's fence,
they might be felled by wind or

rain and cause unwanted damage
to others' property. We don

garden gloves just to be sure
there's no skin contact with

its milky, rubbery sap. After
effort, the skin cools as sweat 

dries; and any clustered blooms
among the debris soon shrivel

in high heat. So far from Asia,
where other names for it are star

jasmine and trader's compass, here
in the North American south I can't

think of it now except for its
association with that history

of civil war. Seven slave-
holding states against the Union,

their plantation economies dependent
on the labor of dark slave bodies;

Fire-Eaters whose cornerstone
beliefs were based on the idea

that subordination to the white
man is the black race's God-

ordained, natural condition.
I too would have been indentured

at that time; or made to suckle
my master's white child like a cow

with a teat full of milk. When I crush
a sprig in my brown hands, a faint

perfume still rises from out
of the lanceolate leaves: fetid note

from history our pruning still
hasn't managed to extinguish.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.