Here it comes again,
after shimmering dead all winter,
stretching, flexing, limbering, unleashing
hordes of feather-cut leaves that look
like dragon tongues, a silty river bronze,
before they flatten to assume
their summer-long, grass-emulating green.
Gone in a few days from dry
sticks and frizz to rampant, virid vine,
it fans out an advance guard
of tentacle-tendrils itching with intent
to get a purchase somewhere, anywhere,
by means of those unshowy but efficient
grappling hooks that stud
their wiry length like blunt, vestigial thorns.
It scrambles up and onward
always by spiralling round whatever
stands in its path—drainpipe, porch pillar,
but then, once anchored, corkscrews round
itself, amassing braided cables
of self-hugging self-satisfaction,
the conquering hero’s doublejointed
pat on his own back, the unbridled
ego trip impelled by the uppity sap
from deepest root to farthest outflung tip,
quivering toward its vegetal entelechy.
It’s then I intervene, I unshackle
the captive clothesline post, prune back
that onslaught to a standstill: several times
a summer hacking through worst intrusions,
severity which seems but to encourage
Why not have an end,
enlist some two-handed machine to smite once
and smite no more? It must be that we need
each other, complimentary claimjumpers
locked in contest through the drowsiest
spells of heat, continually rousing
each other to claw back ceded tracts
of still disputed territory.
it’s worth it, too (I say, sweeping up heaps
of stemmy trash), to see how every May
before these rank, voracious leaves
abound, the blossoms burst from the bare wood
(prized by the Chinese for this, and prized by me),
fountaining down in beads of wistful blue
like droplets of spring’s mild sky congealed.
—Robert B. Shaw
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