American Life in Poetry: Column 062

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Gardeners who’ve fought Creeping Charlie and other unwanted plants may sympathize with James McKean from Iowa as he takes on Bindweed, a cousin to the two varieties of morning glory that appear in the poem. It’s an endless struggle, and in the end, of course, the bindweed wins.

Bindweed

There is little I can do
besides stoop to pluck them
one by one from the ground,
their roots all weak links,
this hoard of Lazaruses popping up
at night, not the Heavenly Blue
so like silk handkerchiefs,
nor the Giant White so timid
in the face of the moon,
but poor relations who visit
then stay. They sleep in my garden.
Each morning I evict them.
Each night more arrive, their leaves
small, green shrouds,
reminding me the mother root
waits deep underground
and I dig but will never find her
and her children will inherit
all that I’ve cleared
when she holds me tighter
and tighter in her arms.


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Reprinted from Headlong, University of Utah Press, 1987, by permission of the author, and first published in Poetry Northwest, Vol. 23, No. 3, 1982. Copyright © 1982 by James McKean, whose most recent book is Home Stand, a memoir published in 2005 by Michigan State University Press. Introduction copyright © 2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.