Yellow Violet

This entry is part 21 of 29 in the series Wildflower Poems

 

Yellow Violet by Jennifer Schlick
Yellow Violet by Jennifer Schlick (click to see larger)

Viola pubescens

Long after the yellow funfair tent
with its sudden shower of pollen
& its sweet prize has been packed away,
after the bees have gone
in search of other diversions
& the forest has grown dark & thick,
the violet hosts a quieter, stranger sideshow:
the cleistogamous flower, a tent
that never opens & admits nobody.
Like a Wall Street investment firm
writing I.O.U.s to itself, it has
all the magic it needs
within its green inviolate room.
We may infer the success of its transactions
only from its conversion
into a new instrument,
with contents set for future release—
a hedge against all the vagaries
of spring & commerce.

Hepatica

This entry is part 20 of 29 in the series Wildflower Poems

 

Hepatica by Jennifer Schlick
Hepatica by Jennifer Schlick (click to see larger)

Hepatica nobilis

Above the road bank where
the hepatica has just come
into bloom, carrion beetles
clamber through the quills
of a dead porcupine.
Spring azure butterflies ring
what’s left of its mouth—
a void spanned by a pair
of yellow rails—
& ignore the blossoms
swaying on their downy stems
in all the colors of the sky,
white & pink & blue.
The snow hasn’t been gone a week,
but already life & death
seem far apart. The rusty leaves
that lasted the winter out
are relaxing into the earth,
& soon will be indecipherable
even to the most ardent follower
of the doctrine of signatures
in search of liverleaf,
or those who seek respite
from dreams of snakes.

*

An earlier version of this poem appeared in a post from April 17, 2006.

Trout Lily

This entry is part 19 of 29 in the series Wildflower Poems

 

Trout Lily by Jennifer Schlick
Trout Lily by Jennifer Schlick (click to see larger)

Erythronium americanum

How did
this trout
escape
the stream?
It’s not only
the leaves—
ichthyomorphic
& mottled,
glossy as fins—
but the salmon-
colored stem’s
leap
& arc,
& the way it falls
with a sun-
bright splash.

Fairy Bells

This entry is part 18 of 29 in the series Wildflower Poems

 

Fairy Bells by Jennifer Schlick
Fairy Bells by Jennifer Schlick (click to see larger)

Prosartes lanuginosa

Their ringing isn’t obvious;
you need the ear
of an anchorite to find them.

Listen for water tricking under rocks,
a black-throated green warbler’s
five wheezy notes.

Look beneath creased leaves
& zigzag branches
for a bell of quiet yellow-green

that flares into a six-pointed star,
anthers facing outward
around a stout style—

all of which must drop away
to swell the bell’s heir,
a scarlet clapper.

False Hellebore

This entry is part 17 of 29 in the series Wildflower Poems

 

False Hellebore by Jennifer Schlick
False Hellebore by Jennifer Schlick (click to see larger)

Veratrum viride

Bright green.
Tight green.
Clasping green.
Grasping green.
Armed green.
Charmed green.
Hairy green.
Scary green.
Ribbed green.
Nibbed green.
Panicle-green.
Planticle-green.
Patient green.
Abortifacient green.
Killing green.
Thrilling green.
Burning green.
Churning green.
Convulsive green.
Repulsive green.
Rain-calling green.
Down-falling green.
Green green.
Black.

*

Note: The Latin name means “true-black green.” The black roots were widely used by Native Americans for apotropaic magic and other ritual purposes. The entire plant is toxic.

Golden Ragwort

This entry is part 16 of 29 in the series Wildflower Poems

 

Golden Ragwort by Jennifer Schlick
Golden Ragwort by Jennifer Schlick (click to see larger)

Packera aurea (A.K.A. Senecio aureus)

Golden groundsel, butterweed,
life root, squaw weed,
uncum root, waw weed,
false valerian, cough weed,
female regulator, cocash weed,
staggerwort, ragweed:
many were the handles
for which you once were plucked,
used as a uterine tonic, an ingredient
in Lydia Pinkham’s famous compound
(mostly alcohol) for “hysteria,”
feeble appetite, irregular menses,
cramps & backaches, prescribed
even to men for breathing troubles,
swollen testicles or sore perineum—
until the discovery of alkaloids
that can damage the liver.
“Life root,” indeed!
Now you spread in peace again
through wet woods & meadows.
Your small suns open
only for the cinnabar moth,
who mines your heart-shaped leaves
with her terrible eggs.

Mayapple

This entry is part 15 of 29 in the series Wildflower Poems

 

Mayapple by Jennifer Schlick
Mayapple by Jennifer Schlick (click to see larger)

Podophyllum peltatum

I’m trying to get lost
somewhere south along the mountain
when I break through a tangle
of fox grapes & stop short:

an insurgent sea of mayapples
bobs in the breeze, a minature forest.
I remember the stories I’ve heard
about human-shaped roots

& how they’ve yielded a new
weapon against cancer.
I think of them crowded together
in the stoney dark.

We who eulogize private virtue
& small acts of kindness,
have we forgotten the glory
of the grand gesture? I stand

as immobile as that line of tanks
at the Gate of Heavenly Peace,
unable to go farther without
crushing one or two.

Their parasols make a brave show,
but they keep their faces down
& their yellow focus on the fruit
they know will come, if only for a few—

fruit that may or may not be digestible,
flowers that may or may not self-pollinate,
depending on the encampment,
& insects that may or may not visit,

since the mayapples offer
neither nectar nor desirable pollen,
& seem to persist because a few bees bumble
& forget where they are.

Wild Geranium

This entry is part 14 of 29 in the series Wildflower Poems

 

Wild Geranium by Jennifer Schlick
Wild Geranium by Jennifer Schlick (click to see larger)

Geranium maculatum

Alum Bloom
you of the shocking
blue pollen
Chocolate Flower
root once used
as a styptic
Old Maid’s Nightcap
fruit like
the head of a bird
Cranesbill
bursting open
expelling the seeds
Crowfoot
each seed with a tail
that curls & straightens
Sailor’s Knot
pulling itself into
a likely crevasse
Rockweed
what fool
invented these names?
Shameface
a flush beloved
of the bees

Wood Anemone

This entry is part 13 of 29 in the series Wildflower Poems

 

Wood Anemone by Jennifer Schlick
Wood Anemone by Jennifer Schlick (click image to see larger)

Anemone quinquefolia

Sheltered when small by
the three deeply cut leaves,
this so-called windflower
sways on its thin stalk even
from the wake of a passing fly.
Its pale sepals serve
as an almost mirror
for the April sun,
warming the sexual organs,
perhaps even helping to attract—
in lieu of nectar or fragrance—
the solitary bees that bring it
carnal knowledge of its mates.
Veined like flesh drained of color,
sometimes flushed pink underneath,
its close relatives reminded
the Egyptians of sickness
& European peasants of an ill omen,
especially the way it folds up
each night like a tent.
What is it trying to hide?
What secret pleasures prompt
such incessant trembling?
It’s bitter, they say,
burns the mouth & throat,
causes nausea, vomiting & diarrhea.
But the deer in early spring
are ravenous. It wants to live.
By midsummer, flower & fruiting done,
its ruined leaves melt away
into the damp ground.

Appalachian Barren Strawberry

This entry is part 12 of 29 in the series Wildflower Poems

 

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.