Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Skunk Cabbage

There's not much to show in knitting, and my reading is almost nonexistent, but it is the beginning of National Poetry Month. Last weekend when we went fishing I explored the surrounding woods, and found a whole grove of skunk cabbage, beginning to unfurl. And who else but Mary Oliver would have written a poem entitled Skunk Cabbage?

Skunk Cabbage by Mary Oliver
And now as the iron rinds over
the ponds start dissolving,
you come, dreaming of ferns and flowers
and new leaves unfolding,
upon the brash
turnip-hearted skunk cabbage
slinging its bunched leaves up
through the chilling mud.
You kneel beside it. The smell
is lurid and flows out in the most
unabashed way, attracting
into itself a continual spattering
of protein. Appalling its rough
green caves, and the thought
of the thick root nested below, stubborn
and powerful as instinct!
But these are the woods you love,
where the secret name
of every death is life again - a miracle
wrought surely not of mere turning
but of dense and scalding reenactment. Not
tenderness, not longing, but daring and brawn
pull down the frozen waterfall, the past.
Ferns, leaves, flowers, the last subtle
refinements, elegant and easeful, wait
to rise and flourish.
What blazes the trail is not necessarily pretty.
Like Kym says, "... we really need poetry. Now more than ever."


  1. Thanks for sharing this, Bonny!

    1. Thanks for reading, Debbie. Only Mary Oliver ...

  2. My neighborhood growing up had a healthy crop of skunk cabbage! Thank-you for sharing the poem Bonny!

  3. Another good one! My parents always looked for Skunk Cabbage on their Spring walks/hikes.

  4. I learned something new. Had no idea what skunk cabbage was! Now I know. Hang in there, Bonny. I am sending you virtual hugs every day.

  5. Thank goodness for Mary Oliver! I learned something today!! Thank you!

  6. Oh Mary Oliver, thank you Bonny! "where the secret name of every death is life again - a miracle wrought surely not of mere turning but of dense and scalding reenactment. Not tenderness, not longing, but daring and brawn..." I hate to quote her out of context, but somehow I don't think she'd mind. (I'm still not sure I'd recognize Skunk Cabbage, but I will remember those words)

  7. Who but Mary Oliver - for sure. I have heard of Skunk Cabbage but never seen it so thank you for the photo. Oliver was so wise. What a wonderful voice and a lovely spring poem.

  8. Oh, Mary Oliver. What a gift she had! Who else could turn something like skunk cabbage into something so beautiful? And that one phrase: "where the secret name / of every death is life again" -- that so perfectly encapsulates the circle of life in the natural world.

  9. I LOVE finding skunk cabbage in the earliest days of spring. It's smelly . . . but a true harbinger of the green to come. And . . . that Mary Oliver! Finding the hidden kernal in everything. Thanks for sharing the poem, Bonny. XOXO

  10. Ahhh, skunk cabbage. It stinks in the most glorious way! That poem is new to me, thanks for sharing it.

  11. Ohhh So THATS what that is! We say a lot of it yesterday in the woods on trail and in streams

  12. Your skunk cabbage is ahead of my skunk cabbage. I love how beautifully green it is when most of the woods is brown.

  13. That last line. whoa I've been reading Mary's books, too. Wendell Berry also speaks of nature in his poems. So many people have started reading poetry, which is so interesting. Something about it feeds the soul.

  14. I love this poem! But by the way in her poem she writes "bunched" leaves. Not "bunches leaves"

    1. Thank for finding my typo! I've corrected it, better late than never.


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