Home > Imprisonment > I Shall Not Kill This Symbol

I Shall Not Kill This Symbol

August 12, 2011

by Karla Linn Merrifield


Three ChemLawn® men pace off
my neighbor’s lawn, planting yellow
warning flags to supplant the Dandelions.
The Eliminator™ will eradicate the weed—
until precipitation washes away the post-emergent

industrial strength herbicide
and another application is required,
despite the corporate promise to last all season
against so-called good-for-nothing Taraxacum officinale
Next door the run-off gets away with crime.


But not in my backyard, where
wishes still spring on seed wings
puffed by child-breath
and are borne to eternity on summer breezes.
The young-at-heart have such giddy hope.

Not in my backyard, where
wine spurts from broad-leafed rings
in a basal circle to be picked
and transformed by my grandmother’s recipe
into gentle dirt-cheap intoxication.

Not in my backyard, where
the Priest’s Crown, Swine’s Snout proliferate;
where the Clock Flower tells me it’s time
to mow my field of dreams; where
the Rustic Oracle foresees He loves me.

Not in my backyard, where
thrives the makings of an herbal remedy,
a female’s tonic to gently balance
my post-menopausal hormones.
O sweet elixir, o for a good night’s sleep!

Not in my backyard, where
the Piss-a-Bed and Pissenlit yields
a medicinal quality to be steeped
into a mild diuretic tea—the relief of leaves.
Even experts agree the plant can be beneficial.

Not in my backyard, where
folklore’s barometer blooms abundantly,
and when wet weather approaches,
they shut like umbrellas; they prophesize:
Rain is a good thing.


In my backyard, I leave them be because
I know at least one Aster Sister grows
in a maximum-security prison yard
at the Auburn Correctional Facility. Gold has broken
through the gray constraints of concrete.

On the property east of mine
redemption withers and dies in an easy spray,
while I hold out no nozzle to my quarter acre
of bright, rampant belief:
A Dandelion is also forgiveness.

for Michael Rhynes, DIN #85c0181

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Award-winning poet, National Park Artist-in-Residence, and assistant editor of The Centrifugal Eye, Karla Linn Merrifield has had work published in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has six books to her credit, including Godwit: Poems of Canada, which received the 2009 Andrew Eiseman Writers Award for Poetry, and her new chapbook, The Urn, from Finishing Line Press. Forthcoming from Salmon Press is her full-length collection Athabaskan Fractal and Other Poems of the Far North. You can read more about her and sample her poems and photographs at Vagabond Poet.

  1. August 12, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    A good one. I like the last line about the dandeiion being forgiveness itself. The NIMBY refrain against chemicals and herbicides is effective.

  2. August 13, 2011 at 11:16 am

    This really grabbed me and made me glad.

  1. November 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm
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