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When Bloom is Done by Shelley Armitage

Marianne Casamance, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Marianne Casamance, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

When Bloom is Done

by Shelley Armitage

I’m Shelley Armitage from Vega, Texas sharing Radio Readers Book Bytes with you today. I’ve been thinking lately about how poetry can be like a prayer. Inspired by a piece by Richard Osler, I like how he describes the poem as coming from a mysterious other inside him, that the poem writes us not the other way around. Writing a poem, he says, entails surrender, paying attention, giving up control. The American poet Mary Oliver writes in her poem “Praying,” “just pay attention, then patch a few words together. . .this isn’t a contest but a doorway into thanks, and a silence in which another voice may speak.”

Here's a poem from my recent book of poems A Habit of Landscape, in which I try to honor the sacredness of the moment.

Texas Spring During Covid
In this moment you have changed
Bishop’s cap a mouth, unspeaking,

sipping air, ignorant of neighbors
slamming doors, motorcycles like a pack

of wasps, the fart of an old truck.
We are told shelter in place, yet

people rush as the wind picks up
Before dusk carrying vibrations

of a border helicopter slicing air.
You stand, slightly swaying

a leaf of peace.

This is your ripening time
and I am drawn to get the hose

bring water—a small penance
to you, the saint, who, green and patient

all winter, restores calm,
a creative waiting

One iris is blooming; the world is on fire.
Can we remember the rhizome faith

when bloom is done, when we
are left with only spent stalks?

You are not perfect. You bend
with less than a full head

in this Texas wind. But beauty
seems even greater when shaped

by harbor and stealth, by fear and trembling.
Will your bloom be that old-fashioned purple

or one of the flashy new varieties? You are
cousin to those irises of old, stubborn still

tubers of time, of memory of sun,
and moisture and stillness.

I unfurl the hose, bring the holy water:
you tap an inner sweetness

in this supplicant turned steward,
in this gesture of love.

This is Shelley Armitage for Radio Readers Book Bytes wishing you a beautiful day.

All poems are from A Habit of Landscape by Shelley Armitage and published by Finishing Line Press (https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/a-habit-of-landscape-by-shelley-armitage/ ) where the book can be ordered.

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Shelley Armitage grew up in the small ranching and farming community of Vega, Texas, in Oldham County in the northwest Texas Panhandle. She still owns and operates the family farm inherited from her parents. Most of her adult life has been spent away from the Panhandle as a university professor in Texas, New Mexico, and Hawai’i, but Armitage always has returned to the “farm”—mainly in summers—which offered until recently a 360 degree view of earth and sky. Witnessing the natural world and its changes remains for her a centering and care-giving activity.