American Life in Poetry

'Bindweed,' a poem selected by Ted Kooser, former US poet laureate.

Gardeners who've fought creeping Charlie and other unwanted plants may sympathize with James McKean from Iowa as he takes on bindweed, a cousin to the two varieties of morning glory that appear in the poem. It's an endless struggle, and in the end, of course, the bindweed wins.

Ted Kooser, US poet laureate, 2004-2006

Bindweed

There is little I can do

besides stoop to pluck them

one by one from the ground,

their roots all weak links,

this hoard of Lazaruses popping up

at night, not the Heavenly Blue

so like silk handkerchiefs,

nor the Giant White so timid

in the face of the moon,

but poor relations who visit

then stay. They sleep in my garden.

Each morning I evict them.

Each night more arrive, their leaves

small, green shrouds,

reminding me the mother root

waits deep underground,

and I dig but will never find her,

and her children will inherit

all that I've cleared

when she holds me tighter

and tighter in her arms.

Reprinted from 'Headlong,' University of Utah Press, 1987, by permission of the author, and first published in 'Poetry Northwest,' Vol. 23, No. 3, 1982. Copyright 1982 by James McKean, whose book 'Home Stand' is a memoir published by Michigan State University Press.

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