Have you ever been on your knees in the middle of pulling up dandelions and wondered what the heck you’re doing? They’ll just come back. It’s an endless battle. Is it worth it? Then have you ever noticed your heart kind of sinking — a sense of futility?
The thing about poetry is, the smallest moment can be seen fully, seen for what it is and also for the feeling it opens up in us.
It’s time to pull up dandelions (unless we spray them to death).
Some yards near us are absolute goldmines. (I, personally, think they’re lovely, but not after they quit blooming and turn into tough wads of leaves.)
Peter Campion gets it just right, what it feels like to pull them: the sudden “pock” of the root coming out (if we’re lucky).
Milk coming from the stem, the heap of them snarled in the driveway.
Then suddenly this poem’s not about dandelions — it’s about us, and now. “It happens still.”
This feeling of what? That things (even our own past) are impermanent, unsatisfactory.
There’s that sudden feeling that no matter how many weeds we pull, things are going to decay and fall. Small creatures will eat patterns into the driftwood. Nothing stays.
But then the speaker in the poem notices that there’s a release that follows this feeling.
There’s a tinge of silver, which we recognize from the dandelion leaves.
What’s that? What do we recognize? That there’s nothing behind all this judging what needs to be pulled except our own stories about how things should be.
We make up our world!
Notice the poem says we make up stories “as If” the only power we have is that of children, who call the dandelion a flower. It’s a weed, it’s a flower, it’s either and both.
We think our naming makes it what it is. We think the naming is what matters. But the dandelion remains what it is without our naming. We pull it up and call it “bad.”
But it is what it is. It is not our naming.
There’s as much to be gotten from reading a poem carefully as there is from pulling dandelions and getting every bit of the root out.
What to do with the “as if”?
Is our power actually greater than that of children? When we make up stories about how things are, are we actually shaping the architecture of the world?
Might that be true?
Fleda Brown of Traverse City is professor emerita, University of Delaware, and past poet laureate of Delaware. For more of her work, and to see her website, go to www.fledabrown.com.
After the cling of roots and then the "pock"
when they gave way
the recoil up the hand
was a small shock
of emptiness beginning to expand.
Milk frothing from the stems. Leaves inky green
Like blissed-out childhood play
they snarled in tangled curls on our driveway.
It happens still. That desolating falling
and then our neighborhood
seems only sprawling
loops...like the patterns eaten on driftwood:
even the home where I grew up (its smell
wood-smoke and bacon grease)
seems just a shell
of lathe and paper. But this strange release
follows: this tinge like silver and I feel
the pull of dirt
again, sense mist uncurling
no architecture hidden behind the world
except the stories that we make unfolding:
as if our sole real power
were the power
of children holding this flower that is a weed that is a flower.
— Peter Campion, Poetry (July/August 2010)