Archives for posts with tag: plants

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My Mistake
by Mary McCarthy

When an army of hungry
orange and black caterpillars
stripped bare half
my passion flower vine
almost overnight
I saw nothing but
their ravenous appetite
their warning armor
of black spikes.
I pulled them off
one by one
the way I would pluck
big green hornworms
from my tomato plants,
and crush them with
a booted foot.

Too late I learned
these were the larva
of the Gulf Fritillary
butterfly, a beauty,
and passion flower vine
not merely its favorite
but its only host.
How could I refuse them
their necessary food
after planting milkweed
for the monarchs,
shunning pesticides
and fertilizers,
learning to love
those humble plants
whose virtues go unnoticed
because they are not showy?

I had no excuse
for extermination,
doubly wrong
because even this hungry army
can only curb, not end
the rampant growth
of its chosen host
limiting its kudzu ambitions
enough to allow recovery–
While my murderous efficiency
could upset the essential
balance, worm and vine,
lives so absolutely
intertwined.

PHOTO: Gulf Fritillary butterfly feeding on Passion Flower. Photo by Gwillhickers.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Thinking about healing the earth often seems like an impossibly big job, but must be preceded, I think, by a shift in attitude. Treating nature as only as it can be used for our needs and desires is a lopsided perspective, that leads to destructive acts on the smallest and most personal arenas. I regret killing all those caterpillars, and realize they would not only have become beautiful butterflies, but would have helped with all the pruning their host vine needs, keeping it reasonably under control.

PHOTO: Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar on Passion vine leaf. Photo by Filo gen.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary McCarthy is a retired Registered Nurse who has always been a writer. Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, most recently in The Plague Papers, edited by Robbi Nester, The Ekphrastic World, edited by Lorette Luzajic, the latest issue of Earth’s Daughters and Third Wednesday. She has been a Best of the Net and a Pushcart nominee. Her digital chapbook is available as a free download from Praxis magazine.

Raul Golinelli
Carrot
by Joe Cottonwood

My neighbor Ellen a single mom
operates an organic farm
nonprofit, the nature of farming,
sells veggies roadside, tractors her field,
comes to church perspiring through dirt,
shows up one day on the restaurant wall
where you can buy burgers and pizza
plus Ellen posed discretely nude, nothing rude,
clothed by corn and kale.

Her paintings won’t win awards
except for courage.
Sales benefit her toil, the soil,
embarrass her preteen son.

Now the whole town sees her astonishing tan lines,
bright stripes on a body stout,
folds of mom chub like ribs on a carrot.

A man of peppery beard out for a mountain drive
in a Ferrari bright red, the midlife car of Silicon Valley
with his preteen daughter looking bored
parks for a pizza, buys one painting.

Next day he returns alone, buys five more,
asks where to find the folk-artist.

Ellen is healing the earth. He is digitizing it.
We hesitate to judge prospects
for art or love, but tell.
May it please go well.

PHOTO: Woman harvesting carrots grown organically in the Bahian backlands in Irece, Bahia, Brazil. Photo by Raul Golinelli

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem inspired by true events but see now it’s also an allegory. Can the sterile algorithms of Silicon Valley help to heal the earth? I hope so.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joe Cottonwood has repaired hundreds of houses to support his writing habit in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His latest book of poetry is Random Saints.

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Pandemic Pumpkins
by Barbara Quick

Yesterday I saw the first paddle-like
pale-green leaves of the Cinderella pumpkin
pushed up from the hilly mounds I made
as graves for one of last year’s gourds
that went to rot before it could be used.

The English peas I’d planted on top
had come up first,
as delicate as pen-and-ink fairies,
tendrils blindly curling forth to find
support for their climb.

On my hands and knees,
I cleared the ground of weeds—
and added a row, along the fence,
of sunflower seeds.

Though their fruit and flowers
are still months away,
my pumpkins are already
fat and dazzling orange
in the mind’s eye,
the sunflowers yellow
against the late-summer sky.

Seeds are hard to come by now;
the sunflowers long past
their use-by date.

But still, any time a dried-up seed
manages to germinate and grow,
flower and thrive, it’s truly a miracle.
Who’s to say a seed won’t wait
three years or even ten?

Seed banks count on some of them
possessing the biological patience
to stay viable, on pause,
till they’re embraced by dirt again,
licked to life by water,
and awakened from enchanted sleep
by sunlight and heat.

I’m witness to this resurrection
every day of my gardening season.
How can I not believe
that life will triumph
over lockdown and decay?

PAINTING: Pumpkin (Chinese SuZhou Art), available at ebay.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Pandemic Pumpkins” is one of more than two dozen poems I found in the garden during my year of lockdown with my husband, violist Wayne Roden, at our little farm and vineyard about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco. Half the poems in this as-yet unpublished chapbook are about gardening. The other half are about the particular interpersonal challenges imposed on people everywhere by the pandemic.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Award-winning poet and novelist Barbara Quick, a native Californian, has been a practitioner of organic gardening since the age of 14, when she dug up the ice-plant at the roadside fronting her mother’s house in Los Angeles to plant tomatoes and Swiss chard. Her fourth novel, What Disappears, will be published in May 2022. Her second novel, Vivaldi’s Virgins—published in 12 translations since it first came out in 2007 (and still in print) is available as an audiobook and was optioned this year as a mini-series. Barbara’s poetry has been included in half a dozen anthologies, including the two that published “Pandemic Pumpkins” this year: the 2021 Farmer-ish Print Annual and Pandemic Puzzle Poems. She has a poem forthcoming in Scientific American. Her just-published chapbook, The Light on Sifnos, won the 2020 Blue Light Press Poetry Prize. Five of her poems were recorded this year by Garrison Keillor and featured on The Writer’s Almanac. Visit her at BarbaraQuick.com.

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Freesia In Winter
by Suzanne O’Connell

Trouble can’t find me here.
Stars, the dogs of ice,
shine down on the smooth
blackness of my earthen bed.
Muffled by dirt, I hold my breath,
waiting for change.

Shivering in my brown fur overcoat
and my sprouted night cap,
I wait like a mole.
I have no vision.
Is anyone there?

Tendrils of root reach out
like a blind man reaches out
with his white cane.

The rain falls like big shoes
walking overhead.
I am a cemetery.
I survive on earthworms,
bits of shell and remembered songs.

I wait for change.
Was that warmth?
Was that light?
Was that birdsong?

At last I push aside my coverlet of leaves
and stretch my stems,
stretching them to the sun.
Soon there will be a celebration,
a homecoming.

In appreciation,
I will bring fragrant white
blossoms to share.

Previously published in 2016 in Westview (A Journal of Western Oklahoma) and in the author’s first poetry collection, A Prayer for Torn Stockings.

PHOTO: Freesia Buds by Anrita 1705.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: From the perspective of a flower bulb, what it’s like to grow up underground.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Suzanne O’Connell is a poet living in Los Angeles. Visit her at suzanneoconnell-poet.net.

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Wild Goose Trail
by Jeff Burt

Burdock, buckthorn, white cormus,
rosehips, vaccinium, red edible currants,
white elderberry, arronia, chokeberries,
such abundant berries
reaching over and into the trail
begging to be brushed and knocked
to the earth to begin transformation
or picked and eaten to fall in scat
aided by bugs and erosion to plant
in the soft dark earth and yield.
I must not pull my coats
from their branches, avoid,
must wade deeply, rustle, touch.

PAINTING: Elderberry Bush by Konstantin Yuon (1907).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Staying on a trail and preserving habitat in its primitive form (as opposed to conserved form) is respectful, but at times you see items in nature begging to be touched and jostled as it is part of their renewing cycle.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jeff Burt lives in the central coast of California. He has contributed to Heartwood, Williwaw Journal, Red World Journal, and many others.
Visit him at jeff-burt.com.

Rushriver
  A Sestina for the Well-Being of Mother Earth
  by Jeannie E. Roberts
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PHOTO:  Rush River, a 49.8-mile-long tributary of the Mississippi River in western Wisconsin. Photo by Aaron Gunnar.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My dad played a pivotal role in my upbringing; he introduced me to the wonders and the importance of the outdoor environment. He registered our home, the land near the Rush River, called Stonehammer*, under the state’s tree conservation program. Here, we planted hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of white pine and other coniferous trees. I recall our long hikes along the river, through the meadow, forest, and woodlands removing other people’s trash; as we’d wander the land, he’d identify the various trees, plants, and wildflowers. Though the Rush River property was sold years ago (in fact, its new owner recently bulldozed both the house and the garage), I’ll remember it fondly, though sadly, too, for it was the last place I saw my dad in this corporeal life. His knowledge of botany was impressive and it stuck with me. When I identify a tree, plant, or wildflower and when I retrieve roadside refuse, I can thank my dad. My sestina honors my beloved father, Donald E. Roberts, our natural world, and the beautiful fragility of Mother Earth.

*Stonehammer refers to the name of the Rush River property with rock cliff, near the unincorporated town of Martell, in Pierce County, Wisconsin, USA.

PHOTO:  The Rush River with rock cliff (Stonehammer) by Jeannie E. Roberts.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeannie E. Roberts has authored seven books, five poetry collections and two illustrated children’s books. Her newest collection, As If Labyrinth—Pandemic Inspired Poems, was released by Kelsay Books in April 2021. She’s a nature enthusiast, Best of the Net award nominee, and a poetry editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs. For more, please visit: Jeannie E. Roberts | Poets & Writers (pw.org).

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With One Small Seed
by Kim Klugh

I am one small person
in a big wounded world
so how do I begin to help
the earth heal? How do I triage
the trauma to our soil,
to our water,
to our air?
As the writer who stares at the blank page
begins with one word
or the artist gazing at the empty canvas
begins with one splash of paint,
I begin in a small way—I plant a small seed
I plant bee balm to bring back the bees
I grow milkweed for the monarchs
I sow seeds of zinnia for the hummingbirds
coneflowers for the finches
holly for the robins
columbine and lupine
impatiens and petunias
poppies and primroses
and I begin to notice the life
that is humming and buzzing
and thriving and flying
I begin to see that small seeds
and small deeds can grow big roots
and long green stems
and shoots and leaves that curl and bend
and I will work to honor
my relationship with Earth
I will examine how I tend
to the living creatures in my own backyard,
I will practice being a caretaker
and I will continue, seed by seed,
to promote life, however small,
for my sacred portion of our world.

PHOTO: Monarch butterfly and milkweed plant. Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My dad taught me to always leave things better than I found them: To pick up litter. To dry flowers and save the seeds for the following spring. To conserve energy and use water sparingly. To feed the birds. He demonstrated ways to reuse, recycle, and repurpose before it was a universal tagline. That was his legacy, so I have tried to cultivate my connection with the natural world in his memory. I can pledge to do small things each year that contribute to the healing our earth is in desperate need of.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kim Klugh is an English/writing tutor. Her poetry has been published on Vox Poetica, Verse-Virtual, Global Poemic, and Frogpond Journal. Several of her poems have appeared as samples in three craft books edited by Diane Lockward and published by Terrapin Press: The Practicing Poet, The Crafty Poet II, and The Strategic Poet: Honing the Craft.

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My daughter bought me an orchid plant
by Julie Standig

for Mother’s Day
four years ago,
two days after
my mother died.

As a rule,
I kill orchids,
which my mother
had often said I did
to her.

I was not one
to be generous
with water,
somehow,
despite me,
this orchid survived.

It thrived,
grew more leaves
even rose again,
pale pink flowers
on twin stems,
as if it had a will
to stay alive.

This winter
has been long
and stagnant.
The orchid
has endured,
has grown
two sturdy sprouts.
I am still waiting.

Like a resurrection
of sorts,
this Mother’s Day
plant. Or is it
my mother’s hand,
somehow rising
from a grave,
to promise,
this one will live.

PHOTO: The Orchid Is Blooming (Polaroid) by Nancy L. Stockdale.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: At the conclusion of a long winter, and some input on my daughter’s poetry (she is putting together a chapbook collection on loss, which is an intense experience for me to edit with her), I walked past this plant that sits on a ledge in my kitchen and saw two tiny buds. So much hope. I really do hope they don’t fail us. And that was the inspiration for this impromptu poem of mine.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julie Standig was born in Brooklyn, grew up in Queens, lived on Long Island (a long time), worked on the Upper West Side (NYC), and now resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She has studied at the Unterberg Poetry Center, participated in Writer’s Voice, and was an active member of a private workshop in New York City. Her work has appeared in Alehouse Press, Arsenic Lobster, Covenant of the Generations, Then & Now (Sadie Girl Press, 2015)  as well as the online journal Rats Ass Review. Her first chapbook, Memsahib Memoir, was released by Plan B Press, and she is currently working on a full volume collection of poetry. A proud member of the Bucks County writer’s community led by Dr. Christopher Bursk, she lives in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, with her husband Ken and their Springer Spaniel, Dizzi.

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A Quest, for an ideal dandelion soup
by Steven Bridenbaugh

Dandelions are ubiquitous, but around here
The fuzzy leaves of cats ears more commonly abound.
But early California March
Beneath a stately larch
A robust colony I found.

I want more than just a leaf
Next to the root, is the heart.
Soaked in water and ice
Thrice washed makes it very nice
One cup chopped: the first part.

To this part, add one part parsley
And of Swiss chard, two parts.
These greens are surely not all that entices
To begin, in a dry pan roast whole spices:
Fennel, coriander, turmeric, and cumin, just to start.

Asafoedita, black pepper, and a pinch
Of cayenne, by hand well ground
With mortar and pestle is best
These spices will divest
To a vegetable broth something that will astound.

I wilt chopped leaves with ashwaganda ghee
With boiling broth complete
In ten minutes green and dark they will be
A blender perfects the sorcery
To this poet, not bitter, and to aging bones, most sweet.

IMAGE: Dandelions by Yayoi Kusama (1985).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have been reading about harvesting wild plants, and my lawn is a good source for them, since I have never used herbicides. This recipe illustrates a good way to make wild harvested plants more appetizing. True dandelions are not always easy to find in my area. Cats ears are a kind of dandelion, which is also edible. I have made a dandelion salad, following  instructions by Jacques Pepin, using cats ears, and they were delicious, but not as visually appealing as young dandelion. When you harvest dandelion leaves, try to include the white base of each stem, as it is very nutritious, and adds to the flavor. The bitterness of dandelion leaves is diminished by fat. To make a small amount of ashwaganda ghee, I heat a cup of water in a small pan, together with half a teaspoon of ashwaganda powder and a tablespoon of ghee from my bottle of clarified butter in the refrigerator. After the water is mostly evaporated, I toss the liquid into the greens, and braise them. I should add that it it is worth the effort, to grind freshly toasted spices with mortar and pestle, just as they do in India. My recipe is based on one in Kate O’Donnell’s Everyday Ayurveda Guide to Self Care.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steven Bridenbaugh is a retired teacher, construction worker, and mental health worker. In the last few years, he has been occupied with writing, playing guitar, and he is a student of Ayurveda and Vegan Cooking. Why? Because it tastes so good! He lives in Eureka California, and owns an older home which he is gradually remodeling. He is sorting boxes of books, which he has acquired over the years, mostly from secondhand stores. He plans to read most of these books, or find people who can appreciate them. If by any chance, you haven’t read The Vicar of Wakefield he will gladly give you a copy, as soon as he finishes reading it. Visit him on Facebook.

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How to Revive a Distressed Peace Lily
by Anne Namatsi Lutomia

I was not at a loss when I saw you at Lowe’s
You were at the corner of plant section on the clearance rack
Your price reduced by more than half
You all labeled distressed plants
You all were neglected, unwanted and stressed

Peace lily, you were drooping and lifeless
Peace lily, you were green, yellow and brown
You were broken, withered, bent and listless
I pondered about the causes of your distress
I wondered what had happened to you

Then decided to buy three of you
Wanting to revive you – to give you life
Taking you from this death-row rack
I already had a big dark blue pot for you
I visualized how you were going to grow and thrive

Not the first time was I bringing home distressed plants
I am neither a novice nor first-time plant parent
I brought you home and got to work
I pruned the brown and yellow parts of you
I removed you from your pot where your maze-like roots thrived

I repotted you in the big blue pot
I layered the bottom with stones
Covered the stones with potting soil
Placed the root ball in the pot and added potting soil
You were thirsty, I watched you absorb all the water rapidly

I placed you away from the window to access low light
Watering you moderately once a week
One day later, your leaves were perking up
One week later, your new shiny green leaves were growing
One month later, your white flowers are blooming

I keep your plant care tag in your pot, Peace Lily Spathiphyllum
For light, bright indirect light
For water, keep soil moist
For fertilization, fertilize every two to four months
For temperature, never below fifty degrees Fahrenheit

PHOTO: Peace lily by Maksims Grigorjevs, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I enjoy growing indoor plants. A friend introduced me to distressed plants at Lowe’s some years ago, and now I like buying some of my plants from this rack. It is always inspiring to watch a plant that was almost dead come back to life. This poem was inspired by the increased interest in growing indoor plants by young people in the United States. I hope this poem can be a resource to new “plant parents.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anne Namatsi Lutomia is a budding poet and a member of a Champaign Urbana poetry group. She enjoys reading and writing poems. She has published poems with Silver Birch Press, BUWA and awaazmagazine. She also likes going for long walks, and now lives in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.