Moss
Playlist by Janice Lee 6 poems
"Mosses and other small beings issue an invitation to dwell for a time right at the limits of ordinary perception. All it requires of us is attentiveness. Look in a certain way and a whole new world can be revealed." – Robin Wall Kimmerer, Gathering Moss
1. Sphagnum Moss
Donald S. Murray
2. Hookeria lucens
Dennis James Sweeney
3. Moss
Bruce Guernsey
4. Writing an Elegy
Rickey Laurentiis
5. Make Me Sheet Moss
Abigail Carroll
6. Dear One Absent This Long While
Lisa Olstein
Sphagnum moss remembers. It recalls
the touchdown of each lark that tumbles
down upon its surface, the slightness of that weight
recorded in the tendrils of each stem. It anticipates
the appetites of flock which graze
upon that wasteland when the rare haze
of summer-heat crisps heather.
The constant tide and toll of weather.
Snow concealing peat and turf like surf,
rolling in with weight of dark clouds curving
around the bleak horizon. The persistent smidge of rain
blurring the land’s muted shades year upon damp year again.

And, too, the heavy trudge of boots
which used to stamp upon it in pursuit
of sheep or cattle. Or else stumbling back
homewards just before the black
of night consumed the borders of a bog
stretching wide before soles, the perils of a loch,
perhaps, where a neighbour drowned. Sphagnum moss,
above all, stores the footsteps of those who are now lost,
those residents and denizens of moor
for whom moss feels an absence, their drum of feet
no longer pounding desolation like a heartbeat any more.
From "The Guga Stone: Lies, Legends and Lunacies from St Kilda" (Edinburgh: Luath, 2013). Reprinted with permission of the author.
Early jungle, late asset
Humble future
Speak of the clouds
Leaves like stained glass
Has been found
Has walked
The ovate leaves have rounded tips
The ovate leaves have rounded tips
The ovate leaves have rounded tips
Neighbors
Backbone
Capsize
Roe
Reprinted with permission of the author.
How must it be
to be moss,
that slipcover of rocks?—
imagine,

greening in the dark,
longing for north,
the silence
of birds gone south.

How does moss do it,
all day
in a dank place
and never a cough?—

a wet dust
where light fails,
where the chisel
cut the name.
From "Peripheral Vision", Small Poetry Press, Pleasant Hill, CA. Copyright © 1997 Bruce Guernsey. Reprinted with permission of the author.
But so tangled in the branches they had to leave it, the conquistador’s
black beard cut from his head whose neck had snapped,
his deadness the others had to burn then, for the wind to take evenly away.
             If not for his lust, his sickness to chase, to claim her;
if not for that Native woman’s quick intelligence, out-climbing   ...    


             This is what I see: the Spanish moss
as convicted to its branches — gray, colonial,
but in my century now, suspended so close each vein might well be a whole, hanging
fiction of my mind. The moss
             is a fiction of my mind: a screen, swinging
on its gothic hinges, making the light fussier as it swags, giving not just the trees
but my idea of them a Medusa look. That man,

            I think, had wanted to feed something in himself
not worth feeding, had founded a world on it — 
                                                                                                     What is it
my mind wants to get at, always extending, hungering, looking
back, always tearing open again its own modernity,
as if each thought is more than the little present
moment it sounds like, but, raised at an angle, piercing me, having me imagine,
to build such antique violences in my head, it is a thorn? This moss
has been growing for ages now, can do nothing
but snag and grow   ...    What is it the mind won’t
unsee, beautiful flaw? In another version, the woman dies
and her husband
braids her hair
through the trees.
“Writing an Elegy” is from Boy with Thorn, by Rickey Laurentiis © 2015. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.
Make me sheet moss,
attender to shagbark, leaf-
song, lungwort, dew,
the muculent lives of snails,
wine of fungi, wood rot,
litterfall, duff. School me
to love mineral, lichen frond,
sphagnum, cort—subsist
on mist, on drip of sky, on
evening damp. Tutor me
to comfort stone, and I will
soothe the ground, yes I will
bless the clod, bandage stump,
limb, twig; companion
crag, mend ruptured seam
in trunk—in cedar, alder,
balsam, oak—and I will heal
the ancient wounds of ice-
scarred rock, salve the grief
of upturned earth, yes,
and I will learn to prize
the meek, the gradual,
the diminutive, the low,
oh Lord of root,
of mica,
of loam.
Reprinted with permission of the author. Appears in Habitation of Wonder (Wipf & Stock, Poiema Series, 2018).
It has been so wet stones glaze in moss;
everything blooms coldly.

I expect you. I thought one night it was you
at the base of the drive, you at the foot of the stairs,

you in a shiver of light, but each time
leaves in wind revealed themselves,

the retreating shadow of a fox, daybreak.
We expect you, cat and I, bluebirds and I, the stove.

In May we dreamed of wreaths burning on bonfires
over which young men and women leapt.

June efforts quietly.
I’ve planted vegetables along each garden wall

so even if spring continues to disappoint
we can say at least the lettuce loved the rain.

I have new gloves and a new hoe.
I practice eulogies. He was a hawk

with white feathered legs. She had the quiet ribs
of a salamander crossing the old pony post road.

Yours is the name the leaves chatter
at the edge of the unrabbited woods.

From "Radio Crackling, Radio Gone". Copyright 2006 Lisa Olstein. Reprinted with permission of the author.