Joe Cottonwood | Intelligent plant poetry

How to Make a Walking Stick

Find a branch that has fallen from a tree.
Ask the tree if you may use this wood.
Wait for the answer (sometimes trees are slow).
Listen to the call of the crow, the bark of the fox.
If bird or fox speak, they speak for the tree,
and the answer is Yes.
Or if no animal calls, if no wind rustles,
but if the tree does not say No,
thank the tree for providing this solid stake.
Grasp the wood, rough in your palm.
It will warm to your blood.
It will wear smooth at your touch.
It will bear your weight.
Thank the tree once more.
Now, with stick, walk away.

If on the other hand when
you ask the tree may you use this branch,
if the tree says No,
stop right there.
Why would you walk farther?
You have found a talking tree.


Lesson from a Pumpkin

House guarded, goblins at bay
long after labor of Halloween day
the pumpkin rests on my deck rail
where I fear putrefaction
so I toss to the weeds
expecting splat.

Instead a bounce like a basketball
and because I live on a mountainside
it tumbles through the lilies to the open gate
then down to Douglas Drive which is scary steep
where without hesitation
as if just waiting for this moment
it rolls around the corner
out of sight.

My kids have lost soccer balls down Douglas Drive
which I scrambled to scoop from the creek
a quarter mile from here, slow current in summer.
Now swollen by winter rains
the water will bob that pumpkin
the full ten miles to the Pacific
and maybe with the current south to Baja
to frolic with whales in paradise.

So too will I go,
not splat but roll, just so.
One day.


Redwood Rosa

So lithe, she stretches
outside my window.
Summer, she glories in sunlight,
dancing a languid hula.
Autumn, she sheds her robe,
tucks my yard in a blanket of duff.
Winter, she pumps water from soil,
grips hillside, holds house from slide.

Elbows nudge my bedroom wall.
Toes crack my foundation.
Prankster, she lifts my porch.
Sometimes in storms of anger
she drops spears through my roof.
She’s the goddess here.
I make sacrifices.


Joe Cottonwood is a frequent contributor to The MOON. He lives with his high school sweetheart in La Honda, California.

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One Response to Joe Cottonwood | Intelligent plant poetry

  1. Tom Dodd November 19, 2017 at 5:13 pm #

    Hah! My oak tree made a sacrifice of my front porch. I am a slave at her altar.

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