How to Grow Wild
Vision failing, she feels the leaves
looking for butterfly
weed, a seedling from her
greenhouse for me to take, add
to my efforts to flower
a field. Cup plant, sweet goldenrod.
Stratify the seeds six weeks
then scratch them in—instructions
on the packets she presses
in my hands, stressing
the importance of natives.
On this street of manicured lawns,
her home, its yard not mown,
could be mistaken
for abandoned. Fleabane,
milkweed. But no monarchs
this summer so far—a hint
of loss that worries her. “Invasive,”
she says about the swamp
sunflower, “you may curse me
for giving it to you.” My mother’s
death still fresh, her daughter
decades buried, she is showing me
how to grow wild, which takes
a lot of planning: Don’t let it go
natural. You’ll have a mess
of wiregrass with very little bloom.
No tilling or compost——
the seeds, tissue thin, prefer hard,
poor soil. Little blue stem
should be mixed in. Rudbeckia, too
bright and dominant,
will need to be thinned. And once
a year, to discourage saplings,
burn the whole lot down to the ground.
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Featured image: Who Ya Calling “Fleabane?” by Alan Levine. CC license.