Botanical Drawings
                                                                        —Robert Gibb

1. Toadflax

An invasive noxious species
As designated by the state,
Butter-and-eggs in the demotic,
Its rude colonies thrive
By the sides of the road,
The waste places and vacant
Lots and curb-collapsing
Sidewalks. Not that they last
All that long, although these
Petaled curds are still yellow
As the bridge at Arles
In that painting by Van Gogh,
The sunlight of Provence
Spilling on it and the distant
Quilted fields. Are still weeks
From tatters. Lit this way
It seems possible that nothing
Has attended the sun
Like them since the land first
Suffered our hands upon it,
Or graced our waysides
With such fugitive bouquets.

2. Milkweed

Because they stood axial
With their turned-out pockets
At the end of the road,
And because geese honked
Claxon from the river,
The four pods I found today
Seemed to me like coracles
On some enormous shore.
Common Milkweed, though
We’ve White as well,
The Orange known also
As Butterfly Weed. Even Swamp,
Whose dusky blossoms
And tufted seeds border
Our old reservoir. Their milk’s
Medicinal in the herbals,
And in the Vedas a kind
Of pale fermented nectar
Sipped from the waning moon.
And because the larvae
Feeding solely on its leaves
Massed the sky as monarchs.


The changes are mostly miniscule, bird to bird,

Like the chromosomes of goat grass and full-
Headed wheat, each splice yielding its strain,
Though these all bear the same conical  
Seed-cracking beaks, the plain brown outlines

Swirling like leaves beneath the autumn trees.
Drab, rufous, variously streaked and capped,
They’re a tumult of tribes that were at first birds
Of a feather. What you see at first is generic,

And only then turns Vesper, Field, and Song.

Robert Gibb

Robert Gibb’s books include After, which won the 2016 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize and Among Ruins, which won Notre Dame’s Sandeen Prize in Poetry for 2017. Other awards include a National Poetry Series title (The Origins of Evening), two NEA Fellowships, a Best American Poetry and a Pushcart Prize.

ISSN 2472-338X
© 2019