Friday, August 31, 2012

The Only One with an Umbrella

First, a quote from Lemony Snicket:

And now, two poems from Steven Withrow's All Out of Doors:

photo by Sebastian Crump

Rescuing a Sugar Maple
by Steven Withrow

“You’ve got creeping rot and wood blight
choking off the lower leaders,”
he offers, chipping white fungus
from dried bark with a golf pencil,
“but good news is, the trunk’s still whole.”

I’d read about dieback, sunscald,
and other scourges of young trees,
of parasites that tatter leaves
or cleave deep roots, but the problem,
he assures me, is with the soil.

“Your lawn’s a touch too alkaline
for healthy growth. These maples here
like a better acid balance.”
All right, I think, it’s chemical,
and something can be done at least.

He bends and spears a mushroom cap
with a graphite point, and he frowns
at me as though I’d drowned a prize
orchid: “When’s the last time you limed,
or tilled and reseeded all this?”

I confess to him we’ve been lax
in stewarding our lot,
preferring the milder science
(admittedly more of an art)
of let-nature-follow-its-course.

He shrugs and starts to mark his pad—
a figure with a dollar sign.
“Art,” he says, and waits a moment
before handing over the bill,
“is crabgrass, weeds, and dead shade trees.”


Undog Places
by Steven Withrow

In the very undog places of the house,
Those uncat spots unfit for a layabout mouse,
You find a hidden hitch that once dropped loose
From a model switching yard—a red caboose
That must have come uncoupled from its coach—
And if you hope to hold it, don’t approach
Too eagerly, or if you do, pretend
You’re merely kneeling there snooping for a friend.

In the very unbed places where you sleep,
Those still unpillowed spaces where you keep
Your treasure trove of marbles underneath
A cardboard box that guards your baby teeth,
What clovers you unearth on second look!
Or tucked in a book atop another book—
A clockwork heart—and part of you unthinks
The thing that undid the Riddle of the Sphinx.


Copyright 2012, all rights reserved. Posted with permission of the poet.

Poetry for Children is the Poetry Friday host today.


Irene Latham said...

I love Steven's work, and how wonderfully th e photo fits! Thanks for sharing these as well as the Snicket quip. Oh, and I think your link is broken at Sylvia's roundup -- it took me someplace else!

Author Amok said...

Hi, Tabatha. The Lemony Snicket quote reminds me (especially the secret message) how poetry communicates something intangible to us.

I especially liked the first Withrow poem -- finding the secret message in what seems to be an ordinary exchange.

Katya said...

Uh oh... when did Steven Winthrow visit my yard? I'm afraid one of my beloved sugar maples is looking quite ill... and "“crabgrass, weeds, and dead shade trees” perfectly describes where it grows!

Steven Withrow said...

Thanks, all! What a coincidence, Katya! Best of luck with your trees.

Steven Withrow

Linda B said...

I love the poem about the lawn, just nod & ask what's next when I have the lawn people here. And I like the quote, Tabatha. Thank you.

GatheringBooks said...

Tabatha! I just shared the Lemony Snicket quote in my Facebook Page. I also have Daniel Handler's Adverbs in my backpack right now as I travel back from Helsinki to Singapore (airport is still quiet, I am three hours early and I have the place all to myself, isn't that lovely?)

I love Steven's 'clockwork heart' and the 'riddle of the Sphinx.' :)

Mary Lee said...

What a pair! Thanks for sharing!

Violet N. said...

Thank you, Steven, for reassuring me that my yard is 'art.'