Among my sonnets are eight that are about milkweed; I include them below for you to read whenever you have the time. Hope you enjoy.
As I put my nose in milkweed blossoms their resemblance to lilacs reminding me now of the cold early spring sniffing up the heavy fragrance happily some bees move around me in such a good mood none of them try to sting and keep humming along my skin and the flower grazing and finding there what will be honey food. Fluttering butterfly startling my eyes sticks its slender black thin proboscis in the abundant overflowing. Walking home patchouli’s in the air, a surprise that’s wonderful because I like the smell but if you don’t, it must be living hell.
Music turned off, I look at milkweed pods Howlin’ Wolf vanishing back into time. They were all purple flowers the first time I saw them. On returning they are not resembling spiky space ships now the shape and color of okra, though near the top they are turning purple where the sun stops first to touch them. In ageless light they’ve aged. Time’s a gentle rape, the bruise the color of the lilac spring autumn’s beginning. I was listening to a dead man sing and accompanied him on another song. In memory the sweet blossom stays though at its stem not a petal remains.
At a distance covered by the early morning snow they look like celestial angels prepared soon to hover over the manger of some unwanted savior sleeping and warm in swaddled clothes. On closer inspection they are only milkweed pods whose husks cracked open and exposed white fluff rain soaked and snow froze, seeds black as tadpoles. They all seem natural as flying birds on high though not alive allowing life to take flight from their broken gaping sides. Gutting themselves they died yet tomorrow the sunny cold will come to dry their fluff and wind will take them up like making love.
On a milkweed pod there is a tuft of seeded fluff clinging like a terrified hysteric dangling from a cliff. I huff and puff but it won’t let go and take flight from its husk, dry and brittle broken stuff that it clutches desperately to stay until my urging breath blows strong enough to send it off. Up it goes, out—Away! Then like an inconsistent memory or second thought it spins and turns around coming back down from where it came now free to idle in the leaves on the cold ground where any birth seems to be frozen yet white and trembling and resembling death.
Out of the old dead roots comes life itself. Milkweed shoots shooting up from the cold ground have made my mourning happy to have found them here unfolding leaves out of themselves. Where do we go after we’ve departed? I’ve been wanting to find her, my old teacher. She told me I could write, my believer. Without her there wouldn’t be any art. Now that she’s gone I want to walk and talk again along this mountain road. We’d see in sprouting milkweed there is poetry her words as well as mine these written stalks a poem where she has gone. We’d talk of how one way or the other life is travel.
There is almost nothing left of it, a solitary tortuous—No, tortured— stem, twisted pods at the tip of the rod broken off, the pinnacle gone, toppled but not completely down; it’s still holding on by a thread wound round itself sticking to the stalk, dried up tufts that never got to float in the wind, but stayed stuck instead though most of their dark seeds have fallen now germinating in the very same ground where they were born. I write this with a script so cold and thin and sloppily written if I don’t rewrite it when I get home no one will ever know what I just wrote.
I can’t find the spring. I did know these woods but what was once wild somebody bought and fenced off. Paths grew shut and where milkweed stood along the old road the county came and cut it down. It’s not there to write about except of course that it’s not there to write about. At the spring I’ll silently shout when my shivering face in a circle of sky gives way to trees in my cupped hand. That’s when I can start swallowing and have my fill. The trick is not to turn back, but go on and take the time to stop and watch until a flock of wild turkeys under a tree run in the shadows and become the leaves.
Most of our fears are very silly. Last year the state trimmed along the mountain roads and then no milkweed grew and this was so because everywhere I looked it looked as if there never had been any milkweed. My mother was dead, that was the present. But back from Scotland now in the present I see more milkweed than I’ve ever seen. Virtual fields of it nod in the wind and the weight of the sucking bees hanging from them humming in the sunny beams on every purple limb beginning to give this morning fragrance not sadly for a flowery funeral, but for me.
So far this morning there’ve been lesbians saddling up their horses, a gold tiny feather that had fallen, and a sunny bunny close enough to see the dark veins run thin and red through its translucent ears before it hopped away. The lesbians are coming through the trees. I imagine them bare-breasted about to appear in a chorus of birds. I am so glad I’m here. This mountainside is freeing me from ambition’s leash and worrying. It’s the milkweed I think. Last year, a sad year I thought it was no longer here but I see bees and blossoms everywhere.