A poem by Joseph O’Brien
Jamie Wyeth “Roots”
After Jamie Wyeth
- Whan that April with his showres soote
- The droughte of March hath perced to the roote...
- Down a ravine, the first fool flush of spring
- Is always brown. The ice-carbuncled ground
- Breaks down, roiling and sifting, revealing
- An old oak’s tense, textured system of roots,
- Like cut-away illustrations of sound
- Found in schoolbooks, tied up in bolted knots
- Of depth and shape, escaping beyond
- Limits of either. Down the rucked ravine,
- The waters rise like a fortune to come,
- The kind blown in with sudden rain; between
- Fox kit’s noisy eviction (that one night
- In early spring) and skunk kit’s chronic home-
- Lessness, a sheltering thatch of root,
- Nested with clotted stone, begins to roam
- Outside topsoil’s loamy island, masted
- With a trunk, its each branch, a windy spar.
- Below deck, the rusty clay, ruby-hued,
- Grips thigh-boned runners, gasping as they creak,
- And spells out tubers with fossilized char,
- As April waits adventitiously to break
- In waves as well over elm as larkspur...
- To say that roots have a system is to say
- Rain is symmetrical or Shakespeare is
- Grammatical. But either way,
- Our words don’t dig down deep enough
- To tap the complexity — ours or nature’s —
- For elements to take sufficient hold of,
- Exhaling rain, sunning earth. Sure, Chaucer’s
- April may very well engender flowers —
- But only the thirsty taproot empowers.
Joseph O’Brien is poetry editor of the San Diego Reader.