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.
merely cut back, periodically,
the relentless ego, the chattering need
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)