Poem by Rob Hardy
Written for the 2019 WINGS annual meeting. Saturday, January 19, 2019.
To begin with the milkweed pod,
pursed with seeds, opening
to give each seed feathered to the wind—
I’ve begun other poems with milkweed
because the seed
stands for generosity, for faith, for possibility,
each seed a small investment in butterflies.
To be fair, milkweed propagates
primarily at the root, the network of rhizomes
sending up new life from the soil,
forming entire communities connected underground. But even this began with a seed—
the promise of connection.
And here’s another metaphor:
when the monarch caterpillar ingests the milkweed leaf, it sequesters chemicals from the sap
that become part of the butterfly itself—
a kind of transubstantiation,
the substance of one life becoming
the substance of another.
This is metaphor.
Metaphor is how a poem connects and transforms— the metamorphosis, the chrysalis
that holds both caterpillar and butterfly,
and in them both, the milkweed.
We live by metaphors.
The money you give is only a metaphor
for the work it can do—
for the promise of health or shelter,
the book in a child’s hand,
real seeds planted in the real earth.
This is how your good becomes the good of others,
how you connect and transform.
This is how you do the work of poetry.
You begin with a seed and turn it into wings.