Literary Spotlight: Robert B. Shaw

Literary Spotlight: Robert B. Shaw

From WTP Vol. VI #6

Enigmas of Weeding
By Robert B. Shaw

Wading into my garden’s anarchy,
I see it little matters where I start.
The rubber kneeling pad I have with me,
the slender, pointed trowel can’t do their part

till I, as sponsoring intelligence,
decide what needs to go from this small jungle.
With so much up for grabs I feel as dense
as stalks I’m dealing with, and bound to bungle.

I’m never sure if one’s a weed or not.
Ragweed, all right, but more nefarious
masters of masquerade have clearly got
an edge, so good are they at flaunting various

crafty facsimile leaves adorning stems
equally plausible (though look, that one’s
fuzzier, isn’t it?). Their stratagems
entrench them so nearby authentic ones

that picking out ersatz from genuine
is scarcely judgment, more like throwing dice.
Camouflage breached, as tangled clumps grow thin
and plots grow neater, real plants pay a price.

I think of seedling patterns I designed
whose sprouts too soon gave ground to bastard brothers.
And now, with both so thickly intertwined,
ripping out some will have to uproot others.

No doubt it’s worth it for the ones remaining—
more light, more air for each, and more expanse
to siphon water from each time it’s raining.
The good ones that are gouged out by mischance,

like phrases tried and dropped from poems like this,
are not at fault, just lodged in the wrong place,
I tell myself. A kneeling nemesis,
I drudge away. Sweat irrigates my face.

It will take time to see if this day’s culling
was what the larger look of things required.
Parsing dubious shoots, perplexed, kept mulling,
this weeder’s growing well and truly tired.

Robert B. Shaw has published seven collections of poems, most recently, Aromatics and A Late Spring, and After (both from Pinyon Publishing). His scholarly work includes Blank Verse: A Guide to Its History and Use (Ohio University Press), which won the Robert Fitzgerald Award. In 2016, he retired after teaching for thirty-three years at Mount Holyoke College, where he was the Emily Dickinson Professor of English.

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