Author's Note: I have now resided in the state of California for over half my life, which makes me the closest thing to a California native. Not surprisingly, I sometimes write about California landscapes, but just as often, about the Philadelphia neighborhood I grew up in. These poems offer a little of each world and a more generic botany lesson.
Lesson from the Meadow
The touch-me-not, also known as jewelweed, tempts the curious to poke the seedpods, so like those of peas, plump pouches of the brightest green, though much smaller. At the slightest touch, the seam splits, a broken zipper, spouting seeds like cannonballs in all directions, leaving the rabbit or the squirrel, the hiker squatting by the plant with only shards of empty rind to show for it. It often pays to tantalize your enemies, employ their ill intentions to survive. Watch video of plants exploding to disperse seeds
Games We Played
They were serious business, those games we played at in the schoolyard, up the driveway, against the stoop, with balls, and bikes, or rakes, chasing each other up and down the block, building igloos in the snow. We played family, repeating all the curse words we heard our fathers utter, played war. On rainy Sundays, we got out old box games like Monopoly or Candyland, dealt hands of Old Maid on the kitchen table. But I preferred to play alone, retreating to the damp basement, where I’d imagine I was flying in the clouds, though it was just a stationary bicycle with wings I’d fashioned out of plywood, laid across the front end of the seat. Sometimes as I flew, I’d sing along to records of Broadway shows, learning all the words. I still remember some of those songs.
Originally published in The Journal of Radical Wonder
It's Fire Season All Year Long
Fire is no stranger to this place; it always had its season and its time. The native plants know how to make the most out of each burn, to set their seed, let the tall trees go, and coax the other plants to grow in newly acrid soil, to use the extra space and light. Until new towns sprouted in the hills and woods, and what once was natural extinguished human lives. They called it Paradise. Maybe it was, once. You’d think they wouldn’t build again, accept it wasn’t meant to be a place of human habitation—poor soil, not enough water, but you’d be wrong. Like fire, we make our landscape and our weather, change the land to suit our fancy, won’t stand aside as trees do, accepting it’s their time to share the light, yielding to the needs of the community. This quality might prove to be our end, this refusal to build around the limitations, instead of blindly forging straight ahead, leveling the mountain, and damn whatever lived there till there’s only room for us and what might scavenge on our leavings.
©2022 Robbi Nester
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