Springtime in the Rockies, Lichen

By Lew Welch 1926–1971 Lew Welch
All these years I overlooked them in the
racket of the rest, this
symbiotic splash of plant and fungus feeding
on rock, on sun, a little moisture, air —
tiny acid-factories dissolving
salt from living rocks and
eating them.
 
Here they are, blooming!
Trail rock, talus and scree, all dusted with it:
rust, ivory, brilliant yellow-green, and
cliffs like murals!
Huge panels streaked and patched, quietly
with shooting-stars and lupine at the base.
 
Closer, with the glass, a city of cups!
Clumps of mushrooms and where do the
plants begin? Why are they doing this?
In this big sky and all around me peaks &
the melting glaciers, why am I made to
kneel and peer at Tiny?
 
These are the stamps of the final envelope.
 
How can the poisons reach them?
In such thin air, how can they care for the
loss of a million breaths?
What, possibly, could make their ground more bare?
 
Let it all die.
 
The hushed globe will wait and wait for
what is now so small and slow to
open it again.
 
As now, indeed, it opens it again, this
scentless velvet,
crumbler-of-the-rocks,
 
this Lichen!

Lew Welch, “[I Saw Myself]” from Ring of Bone: Collected Poems of Lew Welch. Copyright © 2012 by Lew Welch. Reprinted by permission of City Lights Books.

Source: Ring of Bone: Collected Poems of Lew Welch (City Lights Books, 2012)

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Poet Lew Welch 1926–1971

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Beat

Subjects Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Spring, Trees & Flowers

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Biography

Poet Lewis Barrett Welch was born in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1926. After his parents divorced, he moved with his mother and sister to a series of California towns. After high school, he served briefly in the Air Force. Welch was educated at Stockton Junior College, Reed College (where he earned a BA), and the University of Chicago. At Reed, he roomed with poets Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen, with whom he formed lifelong . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Spring, Trees & Flowers

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Beat

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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