The Measure of Dandelions

for Pam

As boys, my father and uncle were promised a nickel a dozen,
generous reward. My grandmother could pinch pennies, but

would pay for an emerald stretch. The neighbor’s yard
bled yellow, strident stems so close together – they hardly

had to move to fill a bucket. She hadn’t thought to limit the dig.
Now, sharing a week at the beach with you, I want to dig out

the dandelions, tall blooms in bright disarray, closing tight
at dusk. Surely a screw driver in the tool shed. Why you ask,

your grammy found them beautiful, little suns popping
the canvas of dunes like modern art, in and among drift wood,

oyster shells, stumps rolled around the fire pit. Another
friend’s grammy made dandelion wine, taught her to pick

greens for salad before blooms sprouted, less bitter.
Think of what we mean by weed, any plant unwelcome

in its present ground. My brother-in-law grew up on the other
side of the tracks. He picked dandelion greens, no nickels

to be had, his mother canning for the coming winter. I asked
how they tasted. Kind of like spinach. He doesn’t much care

for spinach, but survived. I marvel at this resilience,
nodding across the yard, the faithfulness of sand.

Carol Barrett teaches poetry and healing courses for Union Institute & University and for Saybrook University. Her most recent book, Pansies, was a 2020 Oregon Book Awards finalist. A former NEA fellow in Poetry, she has published previously in *82 Review, JAMA, The Women’s Review of Books, Poetry International and elsewhere.

See more of her work in 9.2 and 8.2 and 6.2

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