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Mulch -- Peter Meinke

Guest poem submitted by :
(Poem #815) Mulch
 There where the punk stump marks
 the end of our yard we've strung
 chickenwire around a six-by-six
 plot of crabgrass In theory
 we apply a nice layer of leaves
 a layer of leftovers like eggshells and coffee grounds
 and then another layer of leaves
 ad infinitum or nauseam whichever
 comes first In practice of course
 we just toss in whatever's at hand:

 sawdust and guacamole corncobs
 and grass cuttings willy-nilly
 in gross disorganization where
 they decay and ooze together
 like some vegetable Dorian Gray
 until in spring and fall we spread it
 below allamanda and oleander
 camellia and azalea choking the weeds
 holding in moisture making
 spectacular over-achievers of them all

 If only we could mulch our own mistakes
 before they harden and stain
 dropping the rinds of argument and affair
 shells of dead dreams nasty shocks
 skins of bad habits lumps of neglect
 and sad pride into a pile
 that bubbles and burns in the dark
 until it's usable and by using
 we'd learn for a change
 and open and soar like
 hollyhocks in a country garden
-- Peter Meinke
Ever since my father's best friend gave me the book "Zinc Fingers" for
Christmas, Peter Meinke has been one of my favorite contemporary poets. This
poem in particular shows his mastery of imagery, metaphor, and rhythm, and
it's a poem that begs to be read aloud--the contents of the compost heap
roll trippingly off the tongue.  Anyone who has ever attempted to make a
compost heap can attest to the reality pictured in the first two stanzas,
but it's the final stanza that is my favorite -- the idea of taking all the
"junk" in our pasts and being able to turn it into something wonderful,
"like hollyhocks in a country garden."

[Biograpty etc.]

Peter Meinke (b. 1932). Born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a salesman,
Meinke served in the U.S. Army from 1955 to 1957, attended Hamilton College
(B.A. 1955), the University of Michigan (M.A., 1961), and earned his Ph.D.
at the University of Minnesota (1965). He taught English at a New Jersey
high school, Hamline University, and Presbyterian College (now Eckerd
College) in Florida, where he began directing the writing workshop in 1972.

His reviews, poems, and stories have appeared in periodicals such as the
Atlantic, the New Yorker, and the New Republic. The latest of his three
books in the Pitt Poetry Series is Nightwatch on the Chesapeake (1987). His
collection of stories, The Piano Tuner, won the 1986 Flannery O'Connor
Award. Also, he has been the recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Poetry.

See also
for a newspaper article on Meinke and his poetry.

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