by Mary Beth Zeleznik Artz
In the darkened wood grows a fern, its whips as light as breezes.
In a soil feeding not, cracked and mean.
A home to reject water, clutches and seizes.
From the natural world, the planting is coerced to wean.
Get close enough to feel if it plated itself with thorns,
A curious life, I was curious about it not a little.
The unrecognized left alone, meekness adorns.
The small beauty, the dirty air, and me in the middle.
So alone, alone taking in this thing of being,
Something in the tiny leaves would leave me unsettled.
Passers by invade with vacancy, no senses meant for seeing,
Invaded home, I am not sorry I meddled.
Your fronds like wings, kindly and cute,
But none can glean this from afar.
For what can be known when we walk like a brute,
Not the feeding field below nor the upward star.
To put you in that place where you can thrive,
Suddenly an urge to take you from this ground.
But to go searching holds the chance we won’t survive,
Paradise may not be lost in the lost and found.
I begin to act still, wrap my hands around you,
And in the stillness of that instant I am lent.
I look up and see It matters not to the undisturbed sky of blue
I look back to see my choking fingers, your spine is bent.
A constant weighing of odds as this odd life weighs,
Why do we have to continually decide?
How can one be trapped, motionless by fleeing hours and days,
Begging more from the clock as we hurry our breath to subside.
Dirt under my skin as I worked this over,
And overworked my head once more.
A mind’s constant hunger is a hunter and a rover,
Within the folds you choose an answer and a score.
And in this fleeting moment of a lifetime of thought,
The fern has faded at the tutelage of my hand.
What I have learned, is that what I have taught?
All she wanted was her stake of this embittered land.
The face of beauty falling, across her imperfect lines,
Pack the dirt around her again, frantically I work.
Fight the gross weight pushing you, and read the signs,
Though death appears perfect where life does lurk.
I feel something sharp, but it also shines,
The created is supple, what is made can only hurt.
But which substance will it end up being that binds?
There on my knees, pushing down the crumbling dark earth.
The thing has pierced my flesh as I try to save a life,
A sting in an instant, then follows, a longer flow of blood.
Pulsing out a code, forced to read what is rife,
The liquid life within blends with the dirt to make a mud.
There beneath the shine is a rusty old tin,
A jagged and buried home in which she grows.
The gleaming rim in the ground, it gashed my skin
As I balance on this greater rim, searching an explanation to expose.
And grateful for my wound, my friend to be, the fern,
Her face of beauty asks and rises tall.
Somehow, I want to thank her in turn,
She is the countenance of sadness, at rest in the restlessness of the fall.
And then in the fall, she withdraws from us and from living,
Where will she go, those months when she hides from our sight?
A mystery supreme in the thanks and the giving,
Lucky little fern, she escapes the ballast and the blight.
A notion that cannot seem to leave me alone,
that she is somewhere, even when she goes away.
And like those that others hoard in their homes,
leaves me alone to play hide and go seek with a day.
And most hours and minutes I do not know,
this mud of blood and dirt, I do what with it?
They reap and so I sow and I sow,
Disarm my arm, the instrument of failed physics.
But now I know the friend who gives the very breath to my lungs,
And strange to learn my breath goes back to her in the thicket of the wood.
A mother doesn’t rest until she finds her young,
Our deal struck in nature is for good.
Oh so many leaves that line that spine of those long whips,
you search for your rare and dire drink, but are left as pulp.
For another planting has but one leaf on a stem that slowly sips,
your multitudes demand multitudes of breathless gulps.
But do not fear the aloneness amidst the company of your leaves,
there is friendship you have forged inside your waking slumber.
Can you observe the tireless builder who plans, lifts and heaves?,
Count your leaves and compare with His, your end number.
And even though you go unnoticed still,
You were at some time planted by someone, into that can.
A corroded container holds the whole of a moment’s perfected will,
A refusal of meaninglessness, a meeting of beauty and man.
Is it that the rate of survival is to be slow indeed?
Your ever near death on this ground to give your life it’s ever after?
The planter works not on whim, nor just the easy growing seed,
But the delicate, and the deluge of tears to water the final laughter.