Monday, December 26, 2011

Be The Weed

My daughter's poetry class is turning out to be great blog fodder. 
by Julio Noboa Polanco

Let them be as flowers,
always watered, fed, guarded, admired,
but harnessed to a pot of dirt.

I'd rather be a tall, ugly weed,
clinging on cliffs, like an eagle
wind-wavering above high, jagged rocks.

To have broken through the surface of stone,
to live, to feel exposed to the madness
of the vast, eternal sky.
To be swayed by the breezes of an ancient sea,
carrying my soul, my seed,
beyond the mountains of time or into the abyss of the bizarre.

I'd rather be unseen, and if
then shunned by everyone,
than to be a pleasant-smelling flower,
growing in clusters in the fertile valley,
where they're praised, handled, and plucked
by greedy, human hands.

I'd rather smell of musty, green stench
than of sweet, fragrant lilac.
If I could stand alone, strong and free,
I'd rather be a tall, ugly weed

As I read this poem, it occurred to me that it drew a distinction virtually lost in our current culture.  You see,  most people in our society are flowers.  

They look good.  They encase themselves in the 'right' clothes, the desireable homes in fashionable neighborhoods and the 'car of the year.'  They get plastic surgery, take diet hormones, and inject strange substances in their wrinkles,  to try to buff away any sign of uniqueness and outrun all evidence of the lifetimes and experiences that they should be celebrating.  They turn themselves, at great cost, into little more than manufactured goods.  Pretty and packaged.

They live in clusters in cities, in an atmosphere of relative plenty, like that fertile valley.   They're fed and watered by the work of others, rarely appreciating where their food, clothing, or stuff comes from, and not much caring, either.  They are tended by their jobs, their pensions, government programs and the wealth that we in our country take so much for granted.  They're even admired by those who self-righteously proclaim that they have all this because they're 'exceptional' or because they 'deserve' it. 

But, it's becoming clearer by the day that they too are chained to their 'pots.'  Races, ideologies, political parties, social classes, modern-day tribalism and a hundred other meaningless distinctions are used to set them apart--to keep them neatly in their places, waiting for the next visit from the gardener.  Few would know how to sew a garment, cook a meal that doesn't start in a package, grow a head of lettuce, or milk a cow.  Many can't start a lawnmower or change the oil in their car.  Few understand the the markets for goods that they trade ignorantly in every day.  And few would care to learn.  So they trust, blindly, that someone will come and tend them.

 They are grown to be picked with greedy human hands.  They get tended as long as they're useful and not too much trouble.  The gardeners let them work, to help the garden profit, but when times get a little harder,  and there's drought, they're the first to go.  When some employer or politician says that promises made won't be honored--for wages, security, pensions, or prosperity, the helpless flowers will sit for a while in their pots, perhaps screaming bloody murder--but nevertheless still stuck in their pots because they've never known or wanted to know what it was like to grow anywhere else.  For a while they will cling to a life with no blooms and little verdance, and then, when no gardener arrives to save them, they will shrivel and die. 

I may be biased, I'll admit.  I can't think of a single person I've ever known who would say I'm a flower.   My whole life, I've been a half-step off the beat.  I didn't do it on purpose--there was a time when I would have given anything to be beautiful and feminine and stylish and to fit someplace.  But I never looked right in the 'right clothes.'   I never found friends in the 'right neighborhood.'  And when, briefly, I lived in the big house, it never felt like home.   I've always been a little too blunt, a little too plain, and a little too open about my eccentricities to really seem like one of the gang in the pots.   It seems I'm a weed.

Reading this poem helped me to embrace my slightly weird weediness. And not a moment too soon.  As our systems--political, economic, and social--begin to break up,  I'm grateful that I never fit in the pot, because the days of pots being nice places to live are just about over.  And the folks who will grow through the surface of the stone and thrive will be the weeds.

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