Although we had a small group for this week’s podcast, we sure had some big discussions.
First and foremost, we are sad that Jason has repurposed his yellow parson’s table. We always loved picturing him there when he did episodes from home, but—we finally got a photo! Now back to business! (For now…)
This was our second go at discussing these three poems written by Gwendolyn Ann Hill. The first time around, everyone had attempted to chime in from remote locations: hotel rooms, the back of cars, Abu Dhabi. So, it was no surprise that after great effort, it all went up in flames. However, here we are again to give it another shot! *fingers crossed*
The first poem up was “Unplanting a Seed,” which was an interconnectedness of tragic events, rewound. It’s ambiguity and ambivalence had the crew awe-struck, and remembering the film Adaptation, “Reverse Suicide” by Matt Rasmussen, and “Drafting a Reparations Agreement” by Dan Pagis.
Of course, somehow our conversation on this extraordinary poem somehow turned into a discussion on anatomy. For those out there who did not know (hopefully, only a few of you) we have 2 ovaries. Kidneys are not the size kidney beans. And most times, identical twins share a placenta.
Moving on! According to Jason, the second poem “This Wood is a True Ebony, But it Needs a Century to Grow,” had a certain “luminescence" to it. He compared it to “This Tree Will Be Here For A Thousand Years” by Robert Bly…even though he’s never read it. Guess we’ll just have to have faith in his intuition!
Pause: Are freckled bananas like old ladies? Do persimmons taste like deodorant (Well, even if they didn’t, I bet they will from now on. You can’t untaste that.)
The final poem “We As Seeds” brought us a winter experience in the middle of summer. On the contrary, it’s mysterious symbolism or possibly, literal meaning, had us pleasingly stumped, because we made that a “thing.”
If you were a fan of these poems, Marion recommends that you read Teresa Leo’s book of poems, “Bloom in Reverse."
Well, that’s it for now Slushies. But listen in to see how #flippin’thumbs went! (And help us make #flippin’thumbs a thing, too!)
Gwendolyn Ann Hill is a native of Iowa City, IA, earned her BA at Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR, and is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, AR. In her spare time you will find her either in her garden or hiking in the forest, because she feels more comfortable around plants than she does around most people.
Unplanting a Seed
In a phone conversation with my mother
we say good-bye first, and finally,
after hours, hello.
A ripe Brandywine turns
from burnt umber, to pink, to green.
Flesh hardens. Juices dry up.
As the fruit lightens,
stems lift their droop.
My cousins and I collect
my grandfather’s ashes
from his fields, gathering them in fistfuls
we place tenderly into an urn.
Petals fly from the ground.
Pollen migrates upward
from deep reproductive recesses,
attaching to a bee’s leg.
The bee flies backward
to a tomato plant in the neighbor’s yard.
Bee populations are on the rise.
A surgeon places the ovary
gently into my body, twists
my fallopian tube into a tangle,
watches it turn black and blue.
My grandma gets all her memories back
for one fleeting second,
then forgets them one by one
as wrinkles dissolve slowly from her face.
Whorls close into diminishing buds.
Rain floats skyward;
gathering, in droplets, to the clouds.
The Brandywine plant contracts
its leaves, one by one,
meristem lowering into the soil.
My grandfather collects pesticides
into nozzles. His plows reverse
the soil back into place. He tucks weeds
between vegetables. Rivers run clean
all the way back to the source.
My mom is a teenager, pulling smoke
from the air with her lips,
returning to the town she will call home
its population growing
then dwindling, to fade
eventually into prairie.
Roots recede. Cells merge,
walls breaking down
A casing hardens around the seed.
My grandfather—now a boy, eyes
shining beneath the shadow of his hands—
plucks it out of the ground
between thumb and forefinger
and places it carefully
into the seed-packet,
closing the hole
he made in the earth
as he moonwalks away.
This Wood is a True Ebony, But it Needs a Century to Grow
Split, by the bottomland
creek in mid-October, a persimmon
lay on a bed of netted leaves,
waxy skin hiding the dazzle
jack o’ lantern fruit. I extract
an ant invader, lick my lips.
A little rot sweetens it for sucking,
like jelly Grandma boiled all summer—
the sun with sugar and pectin, a drop
or two of rosewater. Fallen
from a thicket with bark deeply
rifted and cracked; charred campfire
logs. Blow on them. When the lights
go out, these trees glow from within.
We, As Seeds
Right now, we are enduring
a period of cold
stratification, as we must.
Let the sun droop low.
Let the snow
melt, crust, pile
up, and melt again,
the husks of our bodies.
Let the temperature drop.
Let the starlings flock
to peck at the detritus
us, burying us over
and over again.
Only this long
freeze can soften
our shells. Only this dark
washing and rinsing
of our skin can bring
us to bloom.