Poetry and Surprise Asparagus

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Excerpted from my September 2023 newsletter. 


Many of my poems arise from the simple act of noticing: noticing what’s happening around me, and then noticing my own response to my surroundings. My internal musings and emotions can range from wistfulness to sadness, worry to wonder. When I’m out in my garden or yard or some outdoor place I observe regularly, I’m often delighted to be met by some kind of surprise, observing something I didn’t expect to find. One such instance led to this poem:

The sparrows (Once again, I was wrong)

Once again, I was wrong.
And didn’t even realize
I thought I was right.

Just looked at the weeds’
sharp heads and assumed
no one would want to eat them,
pulled the plants by the roots
across half the garden
as the spring sun went down. 

The next morning,
striped sparrows
flushed through the yard.
Clipped seed heads
by the base, swallowed whole
their three-inch spines. 

Maybe I don’t need to say it but I will:

how many times this happens each day,
what I think I know painting itself
across the ceiling of my mind,
furrowing the skyline,
tinting the window glass. 

And how many times
I don’t see the sparrow,
miss the contradiction,
look past the world glancing back,
whispering defiantly:
think again.


As I wrote this poem I thought about how quickly I had classified these plants as “weeds,” separate from the local ecosystem, unworthy of my attention. It took the surprise of sparrows eating the seeds to realize the error in my thinking. I’ve long appreciated Julia Galef’s reframing of being wrong as experiencing a “moment of surprise” and also have appreciated observing my garden for the many opportunities it offers to come across the unexpected. 

Thanks to Verse-Virtual, a truly special online community and platform, for publishing this poem.

Spotted around the yard: Asparagus

Some asparagus spears popped up in my late summer garden bed. “But you’re a spring vegetable!” I thought. “What are you doing here? It’s the end of the summer!” Of course, the asparagus doesn’t know it’s classified as a “spring vegetable.”  When the conditions are right, they grow. And I’m enjoying the experience of being surprised by (aka wrong about) my garden again in the form of tasty, unexpected spears.

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