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Sample Poems by Kim Roberts
The Invasive Weed Syndicate
 
            Shepherd’s Purse
 
A rude ring of lobed leaves cling
to the bottom of the stem, and from this stage
the actors rise in heart-shaped pods
and strip to white petticoats by the open road.
 
            Bull Thistle
 
A ratchety stem with spiny leaves splays;
at the top of each spear, a green gumdrop
garbed in angry spikes wears a hot pink mohawk,
and the bees hone in and get drunk.
 
            Chickweed
 
Tight oval buds covered in a coarse white beard
pop open to reveal a tiny white flower
like a loose corona following the sun.
Little prospector: beware the claim jumper.
 
            Fleabane
 
Leaves like elongated spoons climb,
alternating, left and right, as if marching
in single file. The buds droop at the top
as if from shame. So much
is beyond our control.
 
            Nutgrass
 
Tri-corner stems shoot from underground tubers,
a deep blackish-red, that tunnel
under the crops. This mission is a go:
pulling them up leaves the nutlets behind,
pulling them just makes it worse.


Caseus
 
           “How can anyone be expected to govern a country with 325 cheeses?”
                      —Charles de Gaulle
 
Caesar ate his first blue cheese
Just west of Rocquefort,
in the town of Saint-Affrique.
In Latin it was caseus,
which became cacio in Italian,
queso in Spanish, queijo
in Portuguese. Cheese.
The Roman farmer Columella
described how to get rennet
from the fourth stomach
of a lamb, how to add it
to fresh milk, how long to wait
for the milk to curdle,
how to press the whey out,
how to salt the curds until dry.
In The Odyssey, the Cyclops
drained his curds in wicker baskets
lining the walls of his cave.
The baskets gave the cheese
its form—in Greek formos—
in Italian formaggio, in French
fromage. Virgil ate fresh cheese
with chestnuts. The techniques
of ripening and airing, affinage,
are secrets passed down
thousands of years. Right now,
in some cave in France,
a farmer is carefully turning
each wheel, salting one side,
watching the mold emerge.


Protandric
 
Oysters may look to us
like wet floppy tongues,

but there’s no licking.
There’s no touching.

Oysters are protandric—
they can change sex at will.

All oysters are born male.
They change to female
 
the following season.
They seem to like being female

most of the time. The older the oyster,
the more likely he’ll be female.

And you thought
they were an aphrodisiac?
 
One male ejaculates
then every male in the colony

follows suit. Soon the waves
look like milk. The eggs

sway like belly dancers. It’s spring!
Once again, it’s spring.
 


In Memoriam: Ming the Clam
            (1499 – 2006)

The oldest known living
animal, Ming
was dredged up
still alive, age 507,
off Iceland.
 
Sclerochronologists
can count the rings
on their shells the same way
dendrochronologists
study tree rings.

The ocean quahog
or arctica islandica
lives in the top two inches
of muddy substrates
off the freezing coasts

of northern Europe
and North America.
Climate, sea temperature,
food supply—all
the environmental changes
 
are embedded there,
coated in a tough black
periostracum.
Inside her shell,
Ming shone like the moon.


Moons of Grief
 
There are moons that orbit Grief;
they are, finally, an escape off
           that sorry planet.
The moons are dumpy and irregular
and resemble
           rotating potatoes
but they are beautiful in their scarred, pocked,
imperfect way,
           turning on their elliptic
through roaring blackness.
When you finally reach
           the moon
that you’ll make yours, named
after the Roman
           God of Sadness,
that view of the distant planet
wrapped in veils of cloud
           will seem a comfort,
although for a long while you’ll still describe it
as one might describe
           a wound.