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Thursday, June 15, 2006 10:36 am

American Life In Poetry

Edited by Ted Kooser Edited by Ted Kooser

Gardeners who’ve fought Creeping Charlie and other unwanted plants may sympathize with James McKean from Iowa as he takes on Bindweed, a cousin to the two varieties of morning glory that appear in the poem. It’s an endless struggle, and in the end, of course, the bindweed wins.
There is little I can do besides stoop to pluck them one by one from the ground, their roots all weak links, this hoard of Lazaruses popping up at night, not the Heavenly Blue so like silk handkerchiefs, nor the Giant White so timid in the face of the moon, but poor relations who visit then stay. They sleep in my garden. Each morning I evict them. Each night more arrive, their leaves small, green shrouds, reminding me the mother root waits deep underground and I dig but will never find her and her children will inherit all that I’ve cleared when she holds me tighter and tighter in her arms.

Reprinted from Headlong, University of Utah Press, 1987, by permission of the author, and first published in Poetry Northwest, Vol. 23, No. 3, 1982. Copyright ©  1982 by James McKean, whose most recent book is Home Stand, a memoir published in 2005 by Michigan State University Press. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

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