A potted plant’s conspiracy,
I bend down, rise up in duty,
like a worshipper
in dwindling mist where plants
follow a breathing zest. Then
a sudden hiss—
a moment’s careful withdrawal
in the almost disaster.
The snake lifts a venomous head.
I imagine a dozen bend-downs, rise-ups
in a flash
before the pitchfork-boys descend
like stalwart angels
in the kill. Snake-curled, potted head,
chlorophyll and ichor—
our senses blessed.
Questions and Answers
What inspired “A Time Past”?
“A Time Past”—the title is a giveaway, I think—is purely my reflection on an incident that occurred when I was living in Guyana and had started working as a teenager in a fledgling cocoa plantation. The poem was written around the same time as “A Sun’s Life,” I think; and once more, it’s about the elemental world with a silent drama taking place, if only in my consciousness; and tension—I think all art is based on tension—the juxtaposition of opposites to make the poem aesthetically satisfying.
I recall a specific situation inspiring this poem: my seeing and about to hold up a cocoa plant in a pot with a venomous snake coiling in it and ready to attack; and it’s the persona in the poem engaging with the snake. Maybe a vague religious theme is in the background, even if I am unconsciously invoking a Biblical Garden of Eden motif. In the end the snake, plant and the “pitchfork-boys” become one: the experience is transforming.
What poetic techniques did you use in “A Time Past”?
Once more, it’s the associative imagination at work, but with tension and reconciling opposites. I think I deliberately tried to bring this latter point out as technique in itself. The two-lined stanzas best approximate or capture what I am trying to achieve here, in free verse; and the line-breaks are very significant for me because they influence the specific stanzaic pattern while ordering the poem to achieve the best poetic effect.