August, the shot-silk of sunlight sheening the leaves,
the swamp thistles burning like gas-jets.
Fluted caps of sheep mushrooms underneath spruce.
And “the secret of euphonic concord,” Hopkins thought
graced the cross pollination of flesh and word.
Galls! So that’s what they’re called. I mark my place
and the little rust-colored apostrophes I’ve seen on leaves
are instanced in the name, incanted as if called into being.
Lime nail galls on a leaf the caption beneath the photograph—
pitched tents of parasites (from the Greek “parasitos,”
meaning guests) come to feast in the Ithaca of the tree.
That blacksnake on the asphalt, more ampersand
than “narrow fellow,” slowly charging its cells.
This morning, watering the tomatoes, I found egg-sacks
on a hornworm’s back where a wasp entrusted her young—
white clustered grains of rice, the pest the elevated host.
Back on Melville’s Dog-Starred, first-of-the-month birthday,
I read passages from Moby-Dick as usual, this year late
into the dog watches, rain outside, and in it, when I looked,
the only light the road itself, glistening like whaleback.
The path I took in spring is thicketed with knotweed,
its jointed stalks and flat runged leaves, the tangle
of its stranglehold roots. Donkey rhubarb. American bamboo.
A plant that takes place by displacing, stiff sprouts
spiking through hardpan as if they’d already fissured
the bedrock below. “Not another step,” it says
to nearly everything here. “Time you got used to it.”
Rush, spurge, heal-all—the inflections of these verbs.
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, publication in Best American Poetry and a Pushcart Prize.