Ice Plant in Bloom

By W. S. Di Piero b. 1945
From where I stood at the field’s immaculate edge,
walking past the open patch of land that’s money bounded,   
in California’s flat sunlight, by suburban shadows of houses   
occupied by professors, lawyers, radically affluent do-gooders,   
simple casual types, plus a few plumbers, children of lettuce-pickers   
and microchip princes, grandchildren of goatherds and orchard keepers   
who pruned and picked apricot trees that covered what wasn’t yet   
block after block. Vaporized by money, by the lords and ladies of money,   
in one month, on one block, three bungalows bulldozed, and the tanky smells
of goatherds and, before them, dirt farmers who never got enough water,
held momentary in the air like an album snapshot’s aura,   
souls of roller-rink sweethearts and sausage-makers fleeing   
heaps of crusty lath, lead pipe, tiny window casements,   
then new foundations poured for cozy twelve-room houses.
So what was she doing in that field among weeds and ice plant?   
The yellow and pink blooms spiking around her feet like glory?   
Cranking her elbow as surveyors do, to a bored watcher in the distance,   
she fanned the air, clouds running low and fast behind her.

A voice seeped through the moodless sunlight
as she seemed to talk to the flowers and high weeds.
She noticed me, pointed in my direction. Accusation, election,   
I could not tell, nor if it was at me myself
or the green undeveloped space she occupied,
welded into her grid by traffic noise. Okay!
A word for me? A go-ahead? Okay! Smeared by the wind
and maybe not her own voice after all. I held my place.
She would be one of the clenched ministers adrift
in bus terminals and K-Marts, carrying guns
in other parts of America, except she dressed like a casual lady of money,
running shoes, snowbird sunglasses, wristwatch like a black birthday cake.   
The voice, thin and pipey, came from the boy or girl,
blond like her, who edged into view as I tracked the shot. The child,   
staring down while he cried his song, slowly tread the labyrinth   
of ice plant’s juicy starburst flesh of leaves.
Okay! He follows the nested space between flowers that bristle at his feet,   
his or hers, while the desiccated California sky so far from heaven and hell   
beams down on us beings of flower, water, and flesh before we turn to money.
The sky kept sliding through the tips of weeds. The sky left us behind.

W. S. Di Piero, “Ice Plant in Bloom” from Shadows Burning. Copyright © 1995 by W. S. Di Piero. Reprinted with the permission of TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press,

Source: Shadows Burning (TriQuarterly Books, 1995)

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Poet W. S. Di Piero b. 1945

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Class, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 W. S. Di Piero


W.S. Di Piero was born in 1945 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and earned degrees from St. Joseph’s College and San Francisco State College. A poet, essayist, art critic, and translator, Di Piero has taught at institutions such as Northwestern University, Louisiana State University, and Stanford, where he is professor emeritus of English and on faculty in the prestigious Stegner Poetry Workshop. Elected to the American Academy of . . .

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SUBJECT Class, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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