Poems November 1996
Almost invisible, but once you look for them
like moss in crevices and drifting thoughts,
ferns are what it must mean
to love without yearning. Protectors
of everything small that needs to disappear,
deer mice and tossed trash, bad brushstrokes in a painting,
theirs is the softest name, the softest touch.
They are social workers
as social workers should be—so full of calm
even those who don’t trust them
come into their care. Fiddleheads or not,
the rumor that once a year, on Midsummer’s Eve,
ferns blossom with tiny blue flowers
and if a pinch of fern seed falls upon your shoes
you will be less apparent—this rumor
is baseless: ferns have tiny spores
that travel in dew and raindrops,
no more magical
than Henri Rousseau, composing The Peaceable Kingdom,
or adder’s tongues, cinnamon, wall rue.
In the world’s secret corners,
men wish to vanish, but ferns are what look on,
trembling, holding all light green places.
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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 15 Number 3, on page 31
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