Red Milkweed

The Wildflower Rainbow

A goggle-eyed bureaucrat
from the government Lawn-Police
came to our house
and threatened us
with a fine
for growing wildflowers.
We are guilty of Goldenrod,
glowing like Daffodils and honey,
like gold pollen on bees legs.
We are guilty of growing Milkweed,
the color of blushed cheeks and amethyst.
Guilty of Hispid Buttercups
yellow as sunshine
in a baby's blue eyes.
Yes I am guilty of loving Baby Blue Eyes,
which I have seen in the hills
over the sapphire sea called Pacific.

All plants are innocent
who calls a plant a weed
hold a mirror to them and
seek the reasons for their greed.

It was greed that brought them from Europe,
these invaders who brought invasive plants and animals,
to a land they saw as "wilderness"
and therefore wasted.
Seeking gold rocks in the California hills
the stepped on the real gold of California Poppies--
the flower of my childhood
orange of my love of life
yellow of my hope.

Those who hate weeds
hated Africans and Indians before
and called them worthless:
the same who called wetlands "swamps"
and demand they be drained.
These scalpers, now turned vegetable racists,
genetic engineers, mono-culture con-men,
killers of monarch butterflies,
murderers of meadowlarks---
"felling trees and Indians"
wetland forests cut down to Wounded Knees
Poisoned with PCB's and DDT,
and all the wild fertility of native life
wilting with herbicides,
tied off with barbed wire,
trampled under hamburger cattle
and oozing with toxic wastes
down the dying streams and rivers
down to acid Lakes and beyond----
into the Hudson, Congo and Mekong, Yangtze and Ganges,
and emptying into the dying coral reefs
and the litter covered and overfished oceans.

I refused the manicured lawn
as a fantasy of would-be English aristocrats
who turn wild green fecundity
into hedged, clipped and packaged properties,
land commodified and conquered with pesticides
nature forced into the unnatural shapes
of Euclidian geometry and dollar bills,
sterile Shopping Mall dreams of Versailles,
with every suburban tree and bush
forced to proclaim the righteous sadism of human supremacy.
I will not turn my land into a packaged commodity.
Cut Lawns are ecologically useless
50 million acres of such useless wasted green
already cover the earth
I will not add to it.
I will culture a wild beauty instead.


Morning Glory

I admit it.
I am guilty of loving the unmolested
innocence of wildflowers.
I love the plants that have survived the exploiters
and long for redress for those who have fallen victim.
Yes, I am guilty of loving Indian Paintbrushes
and all the rainbow painted meadows of west and east.
I have loved Lupine
like blue and yellow beacons,
shrubby candelabra growing near the sea.


Coast Bush Lupine and Deer on Dune at Twilight


Yes, I have loved dewdrops,
like liquid diamonds on the lips of Jewelweed.
I have caressed the delicate Trout Lily
and kissed their yellow stamens in secret at dawn.
I have even loved the hated Canada Thistle
and nuzzled my fingers in thistledown and Milkweed
and thrown handfuls of winged seeds
drifting skyward like floating stars
to pollinate meadows for Goldfinches.
I admit,
I trust the intelligence of Monarch Butterflies
and Goldfinches
more than the PhD's of professional botanists
and wildlife biologists.

Natives, both plants and people, are aliens
in a world where abstract markets skyscrape
and plow down the little remains of remnant nature.
I am a stranger and alien in nurseries
and a skeptic of the motives of flower vendors.
I don't much like Orchid and Rose elitists,
the racist greed of hybridizers,
breeding thoroughbred flowers
in the vegetable horserace
to possess bio-symbols of the flora of wealth.
I seek no cultivars of conceit and conspicuous consumption.
I like flowering and forgotten ditches, abandoned fields,
and wild wet areas cornered in the margins of
neglected cities. I love homeless plants
that wander through the capital wastes
seeking to grow free
of the tyranny of money.


Various Grasses and Wildflowers


I love all the lives that Agri-business
poisons and plows under.
I am a sunflower criminal,
bright with illicit green
and guilty of the love
of sun-drunk wild fields and forest floors.
I am a never-do-well of native grasses,
a felon-friend of condemned flowers,
a vagrant lover of cattle-resisting sage
festooned with orange lichens.
I am a pickpocket of autumn seeds,
a thiefless thief who denies the reality of private property,
a dandelion terrorist, spreading Milkweed and Goldenrod,
Snakeroot and Ironweed, Bloodroot and Spring Beauty.
I want to be a Johnny Appleseed
of ancient and neglected plants.

After all,
our bodies are composed of ancient plants
and we breathe the air they gave us
and we owe them out lives.
Those who betray the plant world betray themselves
Who harms what's green
harms the blood of their own hearts.
They are not the "others",
like overlooked slaves,
silent servants of Masters of finance,
merely passive background to the bloody
business of predators.
Plants are the foregound
from which all life is derived
and from which comes our rights,
and without which human life would not exist.

The life seeking law of plants,
the law of sun wondering growth,
puts the lie to human laws:
a single wildflower, growing free
puts the lie to patent, property and profit.
The way to undo Money's Powers
is if many will  love  the wildflowers.


The Path Towards Home
(Emerald Meadows:
California Poppies, Buttercups and Wild Radish)


Part 2

I was asleep in our bed in 1997
and saw in a dream a nude woman
whose green flesh was made of
voluptuous vines and tendrils.
She was very fierce and angry and woke me up,
Disoriented, I stumbled into the bathroom,
and realized something was terribly wrong.
I called my wife who came and she called for help.
I passed out in the ambulance
and was awakened by 18 electroshocks.
Heart Attack.
I was saved by a vine covered green woman and my wife.
It was as if a nude woman made of Trumpet vines
sounded an alarm of orange-golden horns
to bring a thousand
hummingbirds to save me.

After I awoke in a hospital, fighting for my life,
I longed to lay down in ferns under Redwoods,
surrounded by animals and plants.
I wanted to embrace the Indian earth
of my childhood,
California, "right back where I started from".
I would take refuge neither with Buddha's or gods.
I abjured the notion that nature is a symbol of anything
and learned slowly
that this little light of mine,
is the same that glistens from Sierra granite
is the same that unfurls the Fiddlehead Fern
and lights up the orange breast of the Redstart Warbler.
No light of gods or tyrants,
but the simple reality of mica,
sealight in windspray
cell and sunlight on bare dirt--
wildflowers struggleing from soil,
damaged by human greed,
ragged as my nearly broken heart
but still alive.

Under an endangered sky
I take refuge with the scales of fish
and the yellow spotted skin of salmanders,
with Red-Belly Woodpecker feathers
drifting down with cottonwood snow---
with all that is transient and fragile
in existence.
I left the airy vanities
of the Big Ideas,
to seek solace in the intimacy of the small
or earthbound.
I take refuge with Butterfly wings
in the hot August afternoons,
with Angel wings and Question Marks
in the sweet aroma of spicebush
and with hummingbird wings
like a flutter of rainbows.

Ragged But Still Lovely
(Spicebush Butterfly on Goldenrod)

I take refuge with the fallible and fainting
blue globe, floating in endless space,
or rather, closer, with birds nests,
delicately entwined with twigs, green lichens
and tied with spider webs.
and hungry babies crying for more life.

I took refuge under redwoods.
96% of them, gone.
Each old grove cut down
identical to the ancient Mother of the grove,
who might have lived a hundred thousand
or a million years ago.
Each grove cut down killing the ancient Mother--
a crime so awful that the word "punishment" is paltry
and meaningless to the magnitude of the crime.
The only just redress for the killing of Mother Redwood
as for any human caused extinction
is the abandonment of our cultural norms and practice
and the remaking of our minds.
The few remaining redwoods are a redflag
and a red gateway
to a world of justice as yet unmade,
mistily imagined.
Redress to the redwoods
demands radical remaking of our minds.

Redwood by Starlight

White Pines, the redwoods of the east,
once whispered like wind through Osprey wings,
reflected in the driftwood silver
of Great Lakes shorelines
from Maine to Michigan and beyond,
nearly all gone now
pulped and lumbered and sheared
by the sharp cut of pin-striped suits.

In unnoticed atrocity,
there are 16,000 species of US plants
and 4000 are threatened or endangered.
I ask: Who adjudicates the right of plants to exist--
or the right of the rainbow to clarity?
Who adjudicates the rainbow?
I seek justice in the smeared rainbow,
whose colors are smogged grey
under a a chemical sky.
I seek refuge from the sytheing thresher
and the corkscrew creulty of the bank,
and the greedy needles of the gene spicer
and the barbed fences of ranchers and
some selfish farmers
who do not give back the nature they take.
Plants have rights prior to property
prior to history and profit.
In a world where humans are become "animals"
I turn to plants and animals to learn to be human.



Mountain Mist
(Fir. Pine and Wild Field)

I take refuge in the rights of the rainbow,
in Red Trillium and purple Nightshade,
Green Dragon, Trumpet Honeysuckle
and multicolored fields
spangled with Wild Radish.
Milkweeds reach deep roots
into the memory of lost being
and regenerate the lilac and pink
flower of existence,
their leaves glowing green in good hope.


Morning Light on Monarch and Red Milkweed

I seek to share the visionary love
that bees and wasps have
for the non-visible and seductive spectrum
of wildflower allurements.
I seek the succor of sycamores,
holding winter stars in white fingered branches,
in Columbine elegance, poised and silent,
like an iridescent bride
waiting for the magic kiss of a hummingbird.
I seek strength in the Skunk Cabbage
who cloaks and hides its flower
under a hood viened with red
like an ancient bull's horn
hunched and protective
over the delicate flower
that grows forth beauty from mud.

I have stood under ancient Oaks
and huge Beech trees
whose winter leaves offer an orange
and burnished warmth
to the icy sun.
I have waited in the forest
 for the Barred Owl
to call to its mate
behind our house,
which we call Redbird house.
Bishop Pines have shaped my heart
which drips with lilac fog
and stands lonely over silver vistas,


Bishop Pine in Fog

I seek a life of Seaweed and Water Cress
like a willow on the river
where the Yellow Warblers live.
I seek refuge in green moss on grey rocks
and Sea Palms in the sea spray
where the harbor seals bark.
There is nothing better in life
than Madrone, Manzanita, Utah sandstone,
the color of deer fur in summer
and the Rufous-Sided Towhee
calling to its mate,
to ask if all is well.

I've laid myself to sleep in Native grasses
and looked at the sky through May Apple Leaves.
I seek refuge in Beech leaves and Wild Hyacinth,
in the red of Cardinal flowers,
the reddest red in existence.
I seek refuge in what needs refuge
in the tragic history of the weak,
and I do not care if I am
vagrant or pariah, outcaste
or shunned.
I know where I belong when I hear
the silent song of the butterfly
or the whipoorwill in the hollow.

Comma Butterfly Cosmos

I find refuge in Bird's eyes
flying from the clear cut trees
and the mink's foot, on the river edge,
fleeing trappers,
or in the cricket
hiding in a crack on the city sidewalk.
I am a brother of Milkweed and Tule Reed,
a comrade of Coreopsis, Tickseed Sunflower---
I am a Fireweed friend of Hawkweed and Heather.
Above catails and delicate sedges
where tree swallows swerve and fly
into the infinite iridescence
of ultramarine twilight,
I know home is where the plants are
and if I seek refuge in them
safety is assured.

The earth is a dream that plants dream
and who calls plants weeds
has failed to understand
how dreams become real
through the teeming of seeds.


Live Oak: Black Tailed Deer Eating California Poppies




Copyright 2002 Mark Koslow. All Rights Reserved.