Two Poems

I envisioned a return to poem writing when we hit the road, and that has sort of happened. I’ve made two. I will make a short introduction to each below, not to explain, but for a bit of context. It occurs to me that readers of this blog do have the burden of grounding our write-ups, even when we have not been explicit. In any event, here are two poems.

The poem Clementine took me a long time to conceive and write. I’m usually pretty fast. In December, we met a family of four, and the older child made a profound impression on me. This is for her. The ’sacrificial leaf’ is a feature of the mangrove tree in which one leaf absorbs excess salinity and dies, so that the tree may live.


Can she really be
This unwitting prophet
Hand astride her father’s shoulder
Blues-jammin’ Wiggly Tooth?

This incarnation is uninvited
Be Gone!
She commands, recoiling
From her present host.

She has no vision
To be the sacrificial leaf,
Yellowing, dropping into the rich loam
Of the mangrove forest.

She shoulders none of it,
Little Atlas,
She heaves off her past lives,
Her birth, around the campfire.

The little nativity of her
Father, mother, sister
Is what she needs,
Not the brackish past.

~Joseph Whiting

The poem Little Forts came fast. While camping in Marble Canyon, Arizona alongside the Colorado River, we came across these in the desert. Who knows how many we walked on before we even noticed them?! It’s based on little forts someone made to protect a struggling species of cactus, the Brady Pincushion.

Little Forts

Astride Marble Canyon
On a scree of slippery schist
A human of superhuman
Built fort after fort

No more than an inch high
Half a foot wide at best
To guard to warn to ensure
The nascent thrust of
Uncountable Brady Pincushions

Who dared hope my heavy boot
Would not waylay the little cactuses
Indignant and strong, shouldering
Their way past April’s Cruellty?
How many battlements have been erected

In my name?

~Joseph Whiting

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