Sunday, April 29, 2012

Witch's Broom

© Mama Zen Photography

Witch’s Broom

This is the motherland that once
raised outlaws, took in
orphaned indians,
hard dry land glad to get
hardluck sodbusters, mail
order brides, snakeoil
salesmen,abdicated gamblers
lost cause gunmen,
backslid preachers

all desperate some determined
to settle down;
but the blood never settles.
Wild it was
and wild it is,
thick and crazy
in mazed veins newborn
to the task of casking it.

Faults crack her red plains, 
bootleggers become
meth labbers, outlaw thugs
gladhand politicians, medicine show 
preachers preach tea, believers
still empty bellied, indians ground
fine as powder still fighting, and 
always the rule of the gun.

Prairie grass in plumed heads flags
the verge of wheel ruts schooners cut,
now blacktop well oiled where
each growth is history and testament, 
some strong and taking, upright
shadows bible black,
some bent, twisted, killing 
slow, curling into oblivion.

The body settles but
the blood never will;
each generation throws out
its witch’s broom anew
dark spores spit careless on the wind.

April 2012

Ziziphus mucronata04

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Sunday Challenge: Photography of Mama Zen

Process Notes: Witch's broom is the name given to various diseases causing deformity and unusual growth in shrubs, woody plants and trees, often showing a distorted fanned out shape or drastically tangled, contorted appearance. I've stretched the definition by applying it inaccurately to grasses (and humans) here. 

Header photo: Horses, by Mama  Zen
Used with permission.
Footer photo: Ziziphus microonata, By Rotational (Own work) [Public domain], 


  1. you may not be entirely happy with it, Joy, but I think it a wonderful interpretation of the photo - strong, evocative imagery telling an impelling story (loved the image of some plants as "strong and taking, upright / shadows bible black," particularly)
    next to you, I feel like a mere dabbler in poetry...

  2. Hi Hedge - I think this is pretty darn good. Sure you could refine it - the punctuation could perhaps be a bit more consistent (ha!)--but you've got great energy and flow and I love the lists--of figures, landscape features, and what it's all become. What a place/world.

    There is tremendously good sound here, sort of like wagon wheels bumping over rutted consonants - good brisk short words - or at least really strong syllabication. You know what I mean. I especially like hard dry land glad to get
    hardluck sodbusters - K.

    1. AGH! If you only knew how many times I messed with the line breaks and commas! My brain is numb now, so it's going to stay the way is for the moment. But I'm glad there's a rhythm of some kind to it--it's one of those I can't see very well for all the fussing. Thanks, K, for the insightful comment.

  3. When I saw this photo, I so hoped that someone would take up the challenge to write about the deep tracks cut through the North American continent by the pioneers... I have not been disappointed in this poem. Your response went further than I envisaged - the third stanza just drags your readers into the present day and dumps us unceremoniously on the ground, demanding we look around and see where history has led. The final metaphor leaves a chill as we are left to contemplate the future.

  4. Oh, man. I LOVE this:
    "The body settles but
    the blood never will;
    each generation throws out
    its witch’s broom anew
    dark spores spit careless on the wind."

    I think you chose the most challenging of the photos, and rose to the task, beautifully.

  5. Yes, you did choose the most challenging photo, and you have been truly inspired by it. History has inspired much poetry, and yours ranks right up there with some of the best, line breaks and commas aside, Joy. The advantage of writing long after the fact gives you the opportunity to show the outcome, which isn't always pretty. Well done!

  6. I agree, the most challenging picture, but which you are up to the task. Your post flows with passion and energy...I specially like the last stanza ~

    Happy Sunday ~

  7. You mixed history with present..told some hard truths. I agree it was the most difficult photo, but a challenge you met well.

  8. Ugh, where is my comment! Blogger got hungry, I'm assuming. In any case, you've evoked a wild landscape of both geography and soul in this one. No place for nervous persons, as the man would say, but there is that never-resting wind to make sure that it all stirs and stays.

  9. boot leggers to meth labbers...oy, how far we have come in the cracks of her hands....wild was is wild is...the praire hasnt changed much, now we just think we are more civilized....i like it hedge...

  10. You ALWAYS blow my mind, Hedge!! I feel like I'm always learning and being entertained whenever I read you!! Thank you! I love this bit:
    "Prairie grass in plumed heads flags
    the verge of wheel ruts schooners cut,
    now blacktop well oiled where
    each growth is history and testament,"

    Great words and imagery, throughout!

  11. But remember, those are the simpler times we all hearken back too when we think this modern life is a little to This was fraught with the spectre of ourselves left unchecked and hopelessly naive about "worldly matters". Step up my friend I have just what'll fix ya. Great job Joy, you know how to bring out the feeling.

  12. Excellent reply to the pic, Hedge -- I didn't write on it, but I thought of settlers and westward expansion, hope and despair. Your Oklahomiad above shows that, unfortunately, whatever people run from is what they fatefully run into, and the land bears the historic brunt of the truth that "blood never settles." Plague of witch's broom is falsely attributed to the one who heals fire with fire; a bit more mirror and a little less accusing finger would do wonders with those arrogant mama-hating/fearing sumbitches who cross land and lives raping and pillaging as they go. Taking no prisoner and drowning in their curse. Fantastic write. - Brendan

  13. This speaks true to my blood, Hedge. I love it, and I wish that I had written it.

    Girl, I'm sorry it took me so long to get myself over here. I've been somewhat puny.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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