by Gregory Lawless

On the highway just north of the Wyalusing Rocks,
we pull over to eat near a field of cornflower
and September poppy, while tractor trailers
slash toward Tunkhannock, their lashing chains
dragging sparks and slivers on the road behind.
We hardly believe these flowers—our own yard dried out
now to the last brittle spill of topsoil
after a hot summer.  But the white one
with pincushion seed pods and so many
stricken names: thorn apple, stink weed, moon
flower, seems real to me for its rank sashes
of thorns, its cursed leaves.  And I wonder
about the settlers who grazed on this flower,
who boiled the leaves for tea, and burned
apart with hallucinations.  What visions
did it give them: Their settlement in ruins?
Their town toppled with fits of sumac
and savage weeds?  We bag our trash
and rip poppies from the earth.  My wife fans
the bugs away with a map, and I light a cigarette
in the sere field, cupping my hand
to catch the embers and collapsing ash.

by Gregory Lawless

She shears the grass line back
from her pear tomatoes
and onion shoots.  Yesterday,
she plugged a gopher hole
with quicklime and a pail
of stone, and when
she sees the whitetails
highstepping over twine
and chickenwire, she hammers
pans together, screams—
“It brings out the murder
in me,” she claims.  I wish
I could care about the world
enough, at times, to kill.
The blades flash and snap
together like flesh and will,
bearing shreds of asters
and scentless chamomile.
I’m only doing what you
cannot do, she says,
meaning, I think: planting,
pruning, growing, but
you never know.


Gregory Lawless is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  His
work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Best of the Net 2007,
Blood Orange Review, Contrary, The Cortland Review, Drunken
, Front Porch Journal, H_NGM_N, La Petite Zine, Memorious,
nth position, Stride, and 2River.  BlazeVOX will publish his collection
of poems,
I Thought I Was New Here, in 2009.  He lives in Somerville,

On “About the World”:
It’s madness, of course, to try to control the natural world.  I’ve
watched people go mad, or nearly mad, fencing in their gardens
(something will always slither under) or fertilizing their boxy,
withered suburban lawns.  And I sometimes wonder if I would think
and act differently had I a bit of “nature” to account for myself: a
garden, a field, a stretch of woods.  Would I be ruthless enough to
impress my vision upon the landscape?  The stakes are
comparatively low for us today; we do not live or die on the basis
of harvests.  Our world is mechanized and so our approach to
nature tends to be as well.  We build protective scaffolding around
our natural souvenirs.  Still, there’s something atavistic about
poisoning gophers.  Someone or thing is always trying to take what
belongs to us.  The suburban garden is thus a reminder of ancient
frustrations, but it evokes modern ones too.  The woman in this
poem is practical, ruthless, enraged.  Perhaps she wants her share
of Eden; perhaps she only wants produce.  But she’s clearly ready
to destroy nature to claim nature.  The speaker knows better than
to comment openly on her affairs.  She, in effect, curses the
speaker’s incompetence.  He remains aloof, it seems, because he
can’t be certain that her difficulties with the soil will not corrupt
her vision of him as well.

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 4, Number 1
(Spring 2009)

Copyright © 2009
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.

About the World