All flesh be grass?
But which grass, among so many?
Man has spread across the earth —
Spartina, across the mud —
Each going where others could not go.
So, spartina, you are man’s secret totem —
You, the grass no sane man would sow;
We, the flesh that sees like flesh as foe.
Your blades,
Which human spades
Cannot devour,
You, I say, represent man’s power.
But . . . you know your limits.
Do we know ours?
Well, of mud we are
And to mud we shall return.
You, spartina, are the grass
From which flesh could learn.
And let it be said,
By the living and of the dead:
We’ve made our mark upon the mud,
You in lovely green,
Man in red blood.

twv, August 3, 2004

Spartina is a grass that is invasive in the Willapa Bay, near where I live. The federal government has spent millions trying to eradicate it, since it turns oyster beds in the intertidal areas into raised grasslands. Since writing this poem — oh, so long ago — I learned that the federal government spent millions planting the grass on the shores of the Potomac. And Chinese have been using it to reclaim land for a very long time. twv