February 10, 2015
I have always been amazed and a little bit scared by the power of Kudzu to take over a long stretch of southern highway. David Lanier’s poem of the same name elevates that awe and fright to a metaphor for the thrill of exploring all forbidden things when young.
He’d heard all the warnings: how
its vines could grow a foot or more
in a single summer day, could haul down
telephone lines, smoother scrub-pine,
swallow a sweetgum whole.
Cocker spaniels had been lost in it,
they said, and a baby girl almost snared
in the loop of one thin tendril.
But when he looked at kudzu
long enough – alone, staring down
into the thick leafy weave between
Water Street and the railroad track –
it began to show him all
the objects hoarded in its deep green
pockets: bright chunks of coal, flakes
of mica, a set of rusted mattress
springs, flattened tin cans,
a hubcap jeweled in sunlight.
And whose eye was that
blinking through leaf shadow? Whose
gold tooth? He leaned further
and further over the embankment’s
edge, balancing with his bike,
until its leaves reached out
to lick an ankle, until he caught himself
shivering all over.
David Lanier’s award-winning poems about his childhood in North Carolina appear in “Lost and Found,” and may be purchased on-line via Kindle (Amazon.com)
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