The business of the grass


Waist-high words, the summer grass
grows thin and tumbles brown
and filament on filament, binds down
the fallen trash and curiosities
to stubborn rhizomes:
women’s deep concerns,
the knowing nods of men, and talk
(when they can make it casual).

So—about those bullet wounds—who said
that there were five? How could you tell?
Can you believe those Hutterites?
I think they made that up.

Still scary though—so near to home.

I heard that Jim’s boy knew him
in the city. Recognized his name,
his picture in the paper.
Said that it was over drugs.

These put it all in place: out here
things don’t stay random, don’t
lie scattered, disconnected long.


The Hutterites first saw him
from their tractors during seeding
in the yard of an abandoned
farm yard still in
winter coat and boots.
They called the cops and then
took cellphone pictures
of each other with the body
while they waited, then
were startled when a female officer
arrived. It made them feel
like they’d been doing something


When they pulled down the
spinning tape and carried him
away he’d still been new among
the refuse scattered in the yard:
the rusting swings, the plastic slide,
and sun-bleached toys.

You’d leave a scar of broken roots,
of moist earth scrambling with ants, had you
pulled the plastic truck and nerf gun up,
the random signs of years before:
the last-time children on this farm.

Repeated seasons’ words
have made them always-there,
the story everybody knew.

Questions and Answers

As a published writer, what are your tips or words of motivation for the aspiring poet?

Find a community of people you respect with whom you can talk about poetry, but avoid mutual admiration societies. Talk. Exchange. Learn to criticize constructively. Learn not to take criticism personally.

How did your writing process unfold across this poem? How did you write, edit, and refine it?

This was one of those poems that took quite a bit of editing—there were nine versions that I know of. It finally fell into place when I reordered portions of it, changing the final line. It’s curious how often that happens and how powerfully a little reordering can change a poem.

This poem “The business of the grass” originally appeared in Reading, Writing, Listening Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 241 (2020): 16-17.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.