Monday, July 30, 2012

Theodore Roethke Poem: Illuminations with FWS Biologist Roxanne Bogart as Moderator

Roxanne Bogart
Every chapter in Dr. Kimmerer's book, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, gives us greater insight into and appreciation for the lives of mosses -- their role in ecological succession, and as miniature forests that set the stage for and support entire communities of life. Her stories make you think more than twice about stepping on or pulling up these amazing microcosms that have mastered dessication and immortality.

Theodore Roethke
 I want to share a poem:

Moss-Gathering by Theodore Roethke

To loosen with all ten fingers held wide and limber
And lift up a patch, dark-green, the kind for lining cemetery baskets,
Thick and cushiony, like an old-fashioned doormat,
The crumbling small hollow sticks on the underside mixed with roots,
And wintergreen berries and leaves still stuck to the top, --
That was moss-gathering.
But something always went out of me when I dug loose those carpets
Of green, or plunged to my elbows in the spongy yellowish moss of the marshes:
And afterwards I always felt mean, jogging back over the logging road,
As if I had broken the natural order of things in that swampland;
Disturbed some rhythm, old and of vast importance,
By pulling off flesh from the living planet;
As if I had commited, against the whole scheme of life, a desecration.

[Editor's Note:  Always hopeful for comments and conversation...what are you thoughts about mosses, the microcosm, metaphors?]


Mark LaRoux said...

"And afterwards I always felt mean, jogging back over the logging road,
As if I had broken the natural order of things in that swampland;
Disturbed some rhythm, old and of vast importance,
By pulling off flesh from the living planet;
As if I had commited, against the whole scheme of life, a desecration."
I guess in hindsight we could have told Mr. Roethke that the logging road desecrated the area long before he did...and assumably more permanently. I do like how closely desecration and dessication are intermingling in the conversation, one leading to another. I can only hope that moss lines my cemetary basket instead of lace or plastic. Humbling.

Roxanne Bogart said...

Thank you for your insightful comment, Mark. Yes, Roethke's poetic confession is more a reflection of his admiration and reverence than his actual impacts, especially given the context. I so agree that the amazing life cycle of these species is humbling, and heightens the symbolism of its practical use for casket lining. Looking forward to hearing more of your insights. -- Roxanne

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