National Poetry Month: Stinging Nettles by Charles Goodrich

Stinging Nettles 


By Charles Goodrich 



Murky water in the slough, 

the oily sheen and bitter smell 

of herbicides and sewage.  That deeper stink 

is the natural putridity of drowned fescue 

decaying anaerobically, and it rouses me 

like a whiff of sulphur from hell. 

I’m here for nettles, for a spring 

slumgullion of bitter herbs, and the edges 

of swampy ex-river bottoms 

are where to go with gloves on and rose snips. 


The osoberry bushes 

are leafing out beside heaps 

of broken concrete.  Shattered green 

wine bottles wink among wild blue violets. 

Winter’s gunshot possum has vanished, but now 

here’s a rufous-sided towhee just back from Mexico. 


Cottonwood pollen floats in long swirls 

on the slack water.  I sit on the muddy bank 

snapping twigs.  They say nettles 

are richer in vitamins than spinach, but I’m 

not Popeye.  I steam them for a homeopathic dose 

of poison.  I may be chronically pissed off, 

but I’m a singer of praises, to the end, 

and I need those needles 

lining my throat.