Monday Muse: Kudzu is Coming– UPDATED

I know this is long, but having just –oops– done an even longer post about kudzu, this poem by James Dickey seemed to be relevant–perhaps even unavoidable.


    Japan invades. Far Eastern vines
    Run from the clay banks they are

    Supposed to keep from eroding.
    Up telephone poles,
    Which rear, half out of leafage
    As though they would shriek,
    Like things smothered by their own
    Green, mindless, unkillable ghosts.
    In Georgia, the legend says
    That you must close your windows

    At night to keep it out of the house.
    The glass is tinged with green, even so,

    As the tendrils crawl over the fields.
    The night the kudzu has
    Your pasture, you sleep like the dead.
    Silence has grown Oriental
    And you cannot step upon ground:
    Your leg plunges somewhere
    It should not, it never should be,
    Disappears, and waits to be struck

    Anywhere between sole and kneecap:
    For when the kudzu comes,

    The snakes do, and weave themselves
    Among its lengthening vines,
    Their spade heads resting on leaves,
    Growing also, in earthly power
    And the huge circumstance of concealment.
    One by one the cows stumble in,
    Drooling a hot green froth,
    And die, seeing the wood of their stalls

    Strain to break into leaf.
    In your closed house, with the vine

    Tapping your window like lightning,
    You remember what tactics to use.
    In the wrong yellow fog-light of dawn
    You herd them in, the hogs,
    Head down in their hairy fat,
    The meaty troops, to the pasture.
    The leaves of the kudzu quake
    With the serpents’ fear, inside

    The meadow ringed with men
    Holding sticks, on the country roads.

    The hogs disappear in the leaves.
    The sound is intense, subhuman,
    Nearly human with purposive rage.
    There is no terror
    Sound from the snakes.
    No one can see the desperate, futile
    Striking under the leaf heads.
    Now and then, the flash of a long

    Living vine, a cold belly,
    Leaps up, torn apart, then falls

    Under the tussling surface.
    You have won, and wait for frost,
    When, at the merest touch
    Of cold, the kudzu turns
    Black, withers inward and dies,
    Leaving a mass of brown strings
    Like the wires of a gigantic switchboard.
    You open your windows,

    With the lightning restored to the sky
    And no leaves rising to bury

    You alive inside your frail house,
    And you think, in the opened cold,
    Of the surface of things and its terrors,
    And of the mistaken, mortal
    Arrogance of the snakes
    As the vines, growing insanely, sent
    Great powers into their bodies
    And the freedom to strike without warning:

    From them, though they killed
    Your cattle, such energy also flowed

    To you from the knee-high meadow
    (It was as though you had
    A green sword twined among
    The veins of your growing right arm–
    Such strength as you would not believe
    If you stood alone in a proper
    Shaved field among your safe cows–):
    Came in through your closed

    Leafy windows and almighty sleep
    And prospered, till rooted out.

        –James Dickey

5 Responses to Monday Muse: Kudzu is Coming– UPDATED

  1. Kate, you made me think, you made me laugh and shiver, eerie kudzu is everywhere. I had to look it up in wikipedia. This is one plant you don’t want to plant or you are calling the Triffids back.

  2. Like Titania, I was also reminded of The Day of The Triffids.
    Triffic book :)
    And poem :D

  3. very nice Kate. I miss reading your writing.

  4. Oh dear oh dear oh dear–I can’t believe I did this, but I published this without the name of the author, and it’s not me, it’s James Dickey. Hell. This is what comes of half-preparing posts in advance and then not checking them before posting.
    This is me, standing on a rooftop, yelling: THE KUDZU POEM ISN’T MINE–IT’S JAMES DICKEY’S!

  5. Like Titania, I was also reminded of The Day of The Triffids.

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