Emily Bowles | Plant poems

My Weeding.  I Mean, Wedding

Linnaean botany was, at first, a suitable subject
for women, whose botanical drawings became part
of their parlor-room portfolio.
A skillful hand
could
replicate each line.

Replication is too much
like reproduction,
especially when pistils and stamen
are labeled,
especially when pencils and stories
are libeled.

I am not a gardener.
I am not an artist.

Like the ladies in those
libraries, I hold a pen
that promises
some sketchy story of
what takes root here.

I have tried abstracting meaning from
the wild violets in our yard.  They tell
a story of persistence, of
life rising against what is not
life–those man
i
cured,
close-cut lawns.

They are in our garden.
They are what I’ve drawn.

It must be time
for weeding
for wedding.

***

In Disturbed Areas, I Grow Like a Weed

My grandmother and I sought them out,
flowers that exploded into
a universe of purple stars
around a purple center.

We never learned their name,
but we plucked them from
the cracks
in the sidewalk
and carried them back to her house.

I found them again,
thirty years later, with
my daughter.
I had picked one surreptitiously
from someone’s yard.
I forgot about it until it fell
out of my book, brittle already.  It had lost the geometric
precision,
that seductive spiralization that made me
pick more even when
my grandmother
my daughter
told me
enough was enough.

I had to know what it was.

The flower has been given more names than I have.
It has been called frog fruit, turkey tangle, match weed.
It has been called those things, and I almost wish those
had been the family names I’d taken on over the years.

I learned that it is
ornamental,
a cover plant
and
in disturbed areas,
a weed.

Ornamentation continues to cover up domestic disturbances.
Coverture didn’t stop in the nineteenth century.

 

 

Emily Bowles started her career as a visiting professor of English and women’s studies. She published widely on Margaret Cavendish, Aphra Behn, Henry Fielding, Frances Brooke, and Eliza Lucas Pinckney before leaving academic work and turning to a career as a writer. She also volunteers for her community’s domestic violence shelter and is a contributor to the Library Journal and Women Magazine. She blogs at https://embowlden.blogspot.com/.   

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