Friday, March 15, 2013

`Not Governed By Me Only'

I still don’t know the name of the solitary flower growing behind the garage, in that patchy spot where the St. Augustine grass grips the bare earth with stolons, those viney runners known to botanists as adventitious roots. They permit the grass to spread opportunistically, growing under and around rocks and trees and even through gaps in the clapboard wall of the garage. Once inside, the stolons turn pale and curly, and soon wither. On bare spots they make the cracked soil look like a crudely wrapped package.

 The flower resembles a forget-me-not but its five petals are pale pink. There’s a single blossom on a leafless, five-inch stem. The flower gives the impression of delicacy, yet it grows in the hard brown earth, in defiance of the indifferent grass. I’ve consulted several field guides, digital and otherwise, and concluded nothing. It’s what I do in lieu of reading mysteries. Ignorance is a goad, the world’s seductive tease. The trap, of course, is misidentification, assuming one knows something while remaining in the dark like a withered root. Beware of hasty convictions. Richard Wilbur’s “On Having Mis-identified a Wild Flower” is included in New and Collected Poems (1987):

“A thrush, because I'd been wrong,
Burst rightly into song
In a world not vague, not lonely,
Not governed by me only.”

Knowledge is real, not fuzzy or idiosyncratic, and not solipsistic. Wilbur celebrated his ninety-second birthday on March 1. 


Anonymous said...

Isn't a thrush a song bird? Is there something I'm missing about the poem?


Mal said...

It might well be a forget-me-not, Sir! The older flowers do turn pink.