Janice N. Harrington
Dried Milkweed Pods
Remember how unimportant
they seemed . . .
If I lift one to my ear will I hear a red-tail’s skree,
the pitch before it snaps the rabbit’s back?
A spoon, a measure, a lamp,
will a milkweed pod spill silk, or dust?
Does it remind the eye of passersby
that each has received more than desired?
Pods clattering against a chain link fence,
are they cradles, tongues, or slippers?
Evening, and the mind steps into a milkweed pod,
a candle boat aflame with urgent petitions.
Forgive us, or We still remember, or Let dark
currents bear this sadness elsewhere.
Elsewhere, during the war,
children picked milkweed pods beside the roadway.
Children amidst the weeds and long grasses,
filling paper sacks with milkweed pods,
milkweed floss for Mae Wests, milkweed silk
to lift drowning limbs from dark water.
Silk-haired parachutes lifted
on a child’s finger and puffed away.
I pluck and open a milkweed pod.
The seeds rise,
silken ghosts, will o’ the wisps,
a hundred seeds in each pod: potential, chance, luck.
It was by chance that I saw them,
milkweed garlands on a wrought iron fence,
each pod a shovel or trowel—
the scoop the minister used to spill dirt
into the grave—each pod an oar—
the water is wide—or the comma curled
after the minister’s words “Remember
man that thou art dust . . . ,” comma,
a pause, a silence filled with seed.