The Miraculous Commonplace

In her illustrated poem “On Behalf of Seeds,” Chilean poet and artist Cecilia Vicuña observes that seeds are: “Keepers of inner time, they know when to jump. / Some have parachutes, others weight. / Every seed is a space ship, a nomad planet waiting to sprout.”

This poem embodies what I love about poetry. A good poem makes me see the world again, newly. A poem can transform a familiar object, like a water glass or swiss chard seed, and make it miraculous or strange. Since reading Vicuña’s poem, I’ve started to see spaceships and galaxies of all sorts in my garden and around the Island...

There is a yellow and purple-speckled lily I wanted to cut for bouquet-making, but when I leaned closer, I discovered it was a galaxy I could not interrupt. The residents were incredibly tiny basket weavers. So small, they were still within the basket their mother had made for them.

A sunny day followed by an evening rainstorm transformed the paved roads into public sauna for bold (unaware) toads. On the steamy wet roads, toads meditated in their toadly fashion. This long, narrow galaxy of toads that criss-crosses the Island transformed our car into an ungainly monster as we zigged and zagged to avoid the lounging toads.

The milkweed blooming in front my house is a bed and breakfast for all sorts of cavorting insects, with sweet nectar on tap, leaves that fold into private rooms or serve as a dinner table and dinner combo.  My window corners contain a soap opera of spider drama and artistry. The sunset transforms Detroit Harbor into a new yellow sky. Mosquitoes are fighter pilots attempting to land on and pillage new planets, the warm skin I call my arms and legs. (They too often complete their missions successfully.) The center of a zinnia is fertile ground for a tiny flower garden of its own: yellow, star-shaped blooms.

The haiku is a kind of poem that is given to this sort of small-wonder discovery. The haiku asks a writer to concentrate on a single image. With only 17 syllables (usually in three lines 5/7/5) a writer must condense a world of full of detail and movement into a single intense moment. Like this one by 17th-century haiku master Matsua Basho (translated by Robert Hass)

A bee

staggers out

of the peony.

What small and near galaxies and transformations have you seen recently around the Island? Please share your pictures or haikus that capture the miraculous commonplace.