Take Root

The field lies like a still lake, an opaque film
of silver or green—water or soil, apathy or
memory—obscuring the mayhem underneath

A tenebrous home once floated here. Inside:
chrysalis, pupa, larvae, whatever
I left those costumes in closets to mold over years ago.

But, then again, my home was never on the ground.    Shh.
The trees drowse; their boughs rake the ground now,
remembering the press of sneakers in their moldy

crooks. Do I hear Father’s stale breath, the wheeze
of counted gates opening, the inhale of the afghan
mother comforted me with. Do I hear the things hidden

in the soil? They, unlike I, achieved their wishful plan
to stand still. The truth is I would never forget them;
I brought them more memories packed in boxes 

from a different land. Kneeling, I dig in the soil, disturbing 
the swimming creatures underneath, sprinkle the gypsum seeds.
My calloused hands cover them, then play the guessing game

Perhaps something will take root now baseboards, an oaken
table, a window shutter gripping the numbers of an address.
I am a season wandering away, knowing

the exact date of my return.

This poem was inspired by Alice Merton’s No Roots.
Photo by Marcus Lenk on Unsplash

Early draft. Constructive criticism welcome. What, if any, message did you get from it? What were you confused by? Did you listen to the song? How did it relate back for you?

3 Replies to “Take Root”

  1. “I left those costumes in closets to mold over years ago” is a great line. It says a lot all by itself. To answer your questions, I got a general sense of leaving home, recalling an earlier home, seeking a new home. I was confused by “counted gates” and by “A tenebrous home once floated here” – is it an actual lake, or a field “like a lake” as in the previous stanza? “Shh” seemed to come out of nowhere. I kind of like “inhale of the afghan”, it has a neat ring to it. I am familiar with the Alice Merton song and thought it was referenced nicely here.

  2. Nate, I always love your poetry and your seeming mastery of it! I listened to the song, which I’d never heard before, and it helped to give a strong meaning to your words. To me, and I’m sure I’m so so wrong, but it felt a lot like it was about hiding your identity from your father. When you left, you left behind the nonexistent roots of a conservative household but you also had no firm foundation for who you really were either and you were looking for your place in the world.

    From a critical level, there was only one line that threw me, “the inhale of the afghan mother comforted me with”. I think it was just the ending preposition and the placement of afghan and mother made it read slightly wrong. It’s super minor, though, and I’m not aware enough if that was a style choice or required by the poetry form.

    1. Yup, no, that’s an awkward line for sure. Thanks for calling attention to it. There’s no wrong way to identify with a poem. And if you don’t identify with it in some way then that’s the poet’s fault.

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