Happy solstice, everyone.
I spent a good portion of my twenties trying to figure out how to write poems that felt like botanical illustrations. I can hardly even describe what I mean by that, but it had to do with writing poems that showed the beauty, verisimilitude, patterns, and horror of nature. I failed in that particular task, but Talvikki Ansel succeeded.
To continue my poem-off with the lovely Sarah W., here is a poem from Ansel’s “Working from Catesby’s Birds of Virginia” series that to me is summer. (I once lived under that same sun in a house that had a copy of Catesby’s Birds.)
Sun shoots off the metal cab
of the tractor, the mower
roars nearer and nearer
this panic I feel
at the edge of the field.
Sun shimmers the grass stalks,
constant zip, zip of insects.
The engine louder
as it swings back along the hill
towards me picking Ruellia humilis
to draw in my spiral journal,
sleep seems such a waste these days.
How hot it used to be
weeding the gardens at Monticello
all those years ago,
sun burning through my shirt
leaving a white bra stripe.
The mower closer now
to the dip below the fence line,
I can see into the cab, dread
a greeting. He waves, I wave—
it was nothing—climb over the stile
into the woods. Shady, too shady,
and the countless spiders.
(Talvikki Ansel, Jetty and Other Poems, Zoo Press, 2003)
What impossible thing do you always try to write?