Poem of the Week | November 19, 2018

This week we are delighted to present “Growing Down” a new poem by F. Daniel Rzicznek.

F. Daniel Rzicznek’s books of poetry are Settlers (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press), Divination Machine (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press) and Neck of the World (Utah State University Press), and he is coeditor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice (Rose Metal Press). His poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, West Branch, Blackbird, Colorado Review, and Notre Dame Review. He currently teaches and directs the Creative Writing program at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Growing Down

In a gesture just short of violence,
the monarch thrums her speckled body
against the milkweed’s ashy mauves.

Cardboard tangerine and turkey breast
boxes stretch under mulch to slow
the incipient flourishing ready to overtake

and devour everything. We’re not ready
for the butterfly to spiral twice around
our heads, then land, again, on the edge

of a reptilian leaf. Yesterday afternoon
we weren’t ready for so many materials
to reach down toward the exhibit floor,

surrounding us as we wove among them
pointing out burrs and pods we’d cursed,
sprays and blooms we’d praised, lives

dying into ours all along. Not growing up,
growing down—as if the sky could hold
our footfalls, or if the vegetation, livid,

switched roots for stalks and we woke
flitting within the pollen-clouded core,
a sphere of stars walled-in by infinite earth.

Author’s Note

This summer, my wife and myself began raising monarch butterflies in habitat containers in our kitchen. After watching the voracious neon-green caterpillars attack fresh milkweed leaves and then form protective cocoons, we would release the newly-emerged butterflies, some destined to migrate all the way to Mexico, in a small plot of native plants in our backyard. “Growing Down” was inspired directly by this experience and by visiting Rebecca Louise Law’s exhibit entitled “Community,” currently on display at the Toledo Museum of Art. The exhibit features local flora attached to nearly transparent strings of various length suspended from the ceiling. Some strands nearly touch the floor, and the viewer must snake her way through a room full of these strands. The effect is dizzying and otherworldly as it recontextualizes fragments of plant life normally overlooked in the day to day bustle of modern life. My poem “Growing Down” pays homage to both experiences, and is dedicated to my wonderful wife and partner, Amanda.

*Link to Law’s exhibit