The Wilderness, Maura High

Dale Champlin, Girl Doll Head Collage 2, Collage, 2021



between the concrete
and the concrete curb,
scaled down
to this narrow, parched
strip of earth,

is spreading,
as best it can;
seeding, dying back
to leaf and root crumble,
blown dust.

The air down at their level
is filthy
with black carbon, oxides, hydrocarbons,
gas and particles, but

thin-bladed grass gone
to seed, a radiance
of grasses, spillovers
of cloverleaf, skinny-leaved
rosettes of plantain,
the sharp-toothed

they don’t need me
to slow down,
to bend, to look,
to name
the tiny yellow
five-petaled flowers and small
leaves of wood sorrel,
or white clover,
the multiple clustered flutes
that make up its flower,
but here I am.

They don’t need
me to say
life could begin again
from such as these.
I will say it:
all the future unnamed dicots,
family of, genus of,
species unknown,
growing again
in the wildernesses of the planet.

Maura High


Review by Robert Nisbet

“The Wilderness” takes the familiar story of that resilient old Nature which will keep coming back and back, despite parching and poisoning. Its strength is rendered through its copiousness, the richness of the poem’s detail. Only at the very end does the human observer appear, as the voice of the narrator insists that the message, the certainty that this copious life can grow again. should now be stated clearly: “I will say it”.


Review by Massimo Fantuzzi

So much has changed in our perception of wilderness, so much has changed in our perception of poetry. The two worlds orbit in touching distance from each other, separated by this thin porous membrane called the human experience. Both realities, set in concrete constrictions, self-sown in their conscriptions, are spreading, seeding, dying back the best they can. Blown dust, the best we can. We stumble upon a complex mechanism, a sophisticated and adaptable enterprise – although adaptable does not mean invincible, and casualties are to be expected.

Voices of instinct and survival cut out of neglect and filth, conceived inside an impossible territory and pressed all sides by an inhospitable atmosphere. Urban wilderness/poetry that stands against every odds; inner strength and agenda with little care for titles, definitions (and reviews like this one).

Unnoticed and bullied, and with only a parched strip of earth to call home, this frothy metabolism is unlikely to attract the attention of the National Geographic or win the honors of the Laureate Elite; nevertheless, its photosynthesis provides essential nutrients for our soul. And who knows? It could always be that the odd legible verse, the odd edible tiny yellow five-petaled flowers and small leaves of wood sorrel will end up as a decoration in fancy dishes in fancy downtown restaurants, a delicacy on everybody’s mouth.

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