“Pulling Weeds” by Alison Luterman

Alison Luterman


I have not dug up the root.

I’ve sweated, I’ve thinned 
ornamental grasses high as my waist;
clipped waving fronds of night-blooming jasmine
that lunged through the fence like girls at a rock concert,
borne the smears of their sticky lust all over my shirt.

I’ve hacked crowded purple sage 
back to its rightful place; snapped at dry sticks, 
yanked prickly leaves and stems,

but I know, in the darkest,
smallest place inside, 
that I have not gotten to the root.

Not eradicated,
merely cut back, periodically, 
the relentless ego, the chattering need
for attention
so a few roses might flourish
here and there: my better angels.

But there’s the root: call it vanity, call it excess
of thinking, call it personality: 

the incorrigible, prickly, human root.

Look at that castor bean tree, beautiful,
poisonous, which someone planted years ago,
in a fit of reckless aesthetics,
its Martian pink rubber ball spikes
covering the toxic black seed.

That’s me, too.

And no matter how close to the ground I raze it,
it grows back, like a haunted thicket. 
And I know: even my best qualities (a certain
openness, a generosity of heart),
go rank when allowed to squander themselves. 
And I know I am the witch in this story,
as well as the prince, hacking his way through brambles 
in hopes of reaching Love, that sleeping maiden,
even as I am also the noxious weeds, the protective barrier …

Is it the better part of prudence then
that keeps me from ruining
my back tugging up something hell-bent on staying
stuck in the earth where it was first planted?

Or just plain cussedness?

Or could this whole fairytale be a ruse
behind which the face of my true self is hiding?

from Rattle #68, Summer 2020


Alison Luterman: “I write poems and plays and songs, teach, pet my cat, fret about the state of our country and the state of our world, and live in Oakland, California.” (web)

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