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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, 
                                                            /lawn chair— 
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, 
ecstatically, imperially 
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 
further incursions.    
                                           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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