Today’s mentor poem for me is called The Things by Donald Hall.

As often happens when I pick a mentor poem I don’t try to follow a form or idea exactly but rather use the mentor poem as a jumping off point for something new for me. Instead of looking inside my house, I looked outside my back door to the huge Japanese Maple tree that sits outside my office. It is the only plant growing in my backyard that is not a California native plant but it is such a large tree, that we let it stay. The vines that I planted, are one of the few true vines in California native plants. And the butterflies I wait for are the Pipevine Swallowtails, whose only food are these vines, and who used to be prevalent in my area but whose numbers have dwindled greatly over the years. I have no butterflies, yet.

Here’s my rough draft.


The Garden

When I step outside I see a giant Japanese maple
planted near full grown by another family
lowered by a crane over the top of my tall home
because impatience
was the food they used to fertilize most everything.
A tree, healthy, green, growing tall,
wide enough to shade the patio and my office
and just kiss the edge of the roof,
a beautiful specimen but it’s not mine
even though its roots tunnel throughout my yard,
I did not nurture it through drought and frost
and I curse the tiny seedlings that sprout everywhere
but in spring it fills with birds who nest and sing
so I let it stay and plant pipevines at the base
and encourage the vines
to travel up the trunk and across the branches
like tentacles dripping with funny pipe-shaped blossoms
while I stand in the shade of the massive maple
and wait for butterflies.

Susan Taylor Brown