Return from exile
Here and there you see them, lavender spikes, familiar
despite long absence, swaying with the west wind,
princesses home from banishment.
My mother knew their Latin name: lythrum,
but not their common label: purple loose strife.
She grew them, tended them, a showy row. Along the fence
these bold perennials shot up each blessed year
bloomed, drew admiration.
She brought them in big bunches to her friends.
And I—I yanked them every one out
by their deep and stubborn roots
where they stood accused
of blocking waterways and ditches, choking marine life.
They were deemed noxious,, driven from parks and gardens.
My mother, not a single word, stared horror-struck
at the execution. She had loved them, nurtured them,
not knowing that their purple hearts claimed more
than their fair share of nourishing soil, air, water
She was like that, seeing beauty, overlooking faults that some
would drag into the light, rightly condemn, punish ruthlessly.
And now, look–they are back, not in full force
but here and there
assessing the lay of the land,
testing the air.
My mother’s no longer there. For her sake
I want lythrum granted pardon. I want them thriving
quietly among us. She knew
coming from a cold country, once the train
of endless crowded freight cars leaves the station
headed for that cheerless land called ‘exile’
Sarah Klassen lives and writes in Winnipeg. Her latest poetry collection A Curious Beatitude (2006), received the CAA Poetry Award in 2007. A new collection is scheduled for 2012.