Since knee surgery in February and then the arrival of kittens in August, I haven’t been getting outside much. I have called my yard my meadow. Now it’s time, or long past time, to break up the irises. They have tripled in number and area, and grasses have grown up between them, grown tall and gone to seed. This morning, I brought out the shovel and realized that I couldn’t tell where the rhizomes were. After pulling some of the grasses out, I could see enough to dig. My shovel went nowhere. My sunglasses (protective eyewear!) slid off. This wasn’t working. I brought out a trowel-claw combination and a hacker tool. The trowel’s tip had chipped off, rendering it not very efficient, but I made enough progress to see some roots. I even broke a piece off. I went back to the big shovel, trying to dig deep and far enough under to pry off a hunk.
The growth, the arrangement of the irises was a puzzle to solve, a mystery, and I thought about writing into the mystery. A poem might start with an idea, or a feeling, or an image, but then, as Richard Hugo points out in The Triggering Town, the poem must proceed from there, venture into unknown territory, or excavate down into the unknown dirt. Most of the time, it’s hard. The poetic shovel might hit a rock or a giant root. In my garden, those impediments must be negotiated. In a poem, an obstacle might become a door—a new direction into the mystery. Lately, I’ve been struggling with my writing. But this morning’s episode in the yard gave me hope. I can just keep trying, from new angles, digging a little deeper each time. Starting over as a path to success!
In the end, I made about a third as much progress as I had hoped—but nothing says it has to be finished today, just as nothing says a poem has to be finished in a day (and mine aren’t). I’ll come back, try to chip away a little each day, at the iris bed and at the poems, trusting that sometime, something will bloom.
Earlier, my poem Regarding Hollyhocks appeared in Cumberland River Review.
Currently, I’m reading two poets who taught this year at LiTFUSE:
- Kim Addonizio: Ordinary Genius and Now We’re Getting Somewhere
- Gary Copeland Lilley: High Water Everywhere