The Hemlock Hero

Poison hemlock. Note the purple splotches on the stems.

Hordes of Cassandras warned
us about global warming,
we’ve been ignoring them
taking no heed of the storms
on the horizon.

The disasters descend
along with new omens:
poison hemlock here in Portland
and swarms of mosquitoes.

While half the nation is aflame
after a decade of drought,
our town half drowns.
Drenching rains
fill the forgotten buckets
in our gardens
and every stump and sodden
hollow in the woods—
all turn into verminous nurseries.

Tending the back yard tomatoes
we are besieged, surrounded by clouds
of hungry would-be mothers
who need us to feed their unborn.
We swat and curse, itch and
scratch until we bleed.

This spring our farm
is flourishing. A bumper crop of greens
wrestles with thickets of weeds,
innocuous tonics—dandelion, lemon balm—
bittercress, bindweed, edible thistles,
both natives and invaders.

All Oregon is cursed this year.
Jungles of hemlock spring up everywhere,
harbingers of worse to come.
I remember Socrates but will not succumb
to the decrees of rulers
or those malefactors of great wealth,
will not drink death.
Grabbing a shovel and gloves instead
I dig up and pack the poison in a sack
and throw it in the trash.

My wife overturns the buckets,
discards the larva.
She calls me a hemlock hero.
I make a muscle, return her smile,
and joke about Italian sandwiches
Lucrezia Borgia might have prepared
to dispatch her adversaries.
I fantasize feeding them
to the enemies of Earth
and then go out again
to brave the bugs and brambles.

I will not despair.

2 Responses to The Hemlock Hero

  1. Connie Byrne July 15, 2022 at 3:23 am #

    So love your approach to battling hemlock right on. Keep a small baby food bottle of a week. Ammonia solution with a sponge on hand to dab on those mosquito bites. It will be gone. The ammonia breaks down the histamines. Promise you from one long time gardener to another it works. Keep up the good fight fellow gardener. Fall will arrive. Just not as soon as we would like it to.

  2. Martha Shelley July 15, 2022 at 9:30 am #

    Thanks for the tip!

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