I learned about bamboo
when it took over my parents'
house, when it grew so tall
and multiplied in hordes it
cast their lives in shadow.
It is not delicate, it does not give
to wind or fade away when cut
down. It is a survivor, strong and
rigid like my mother, who survived
all those years in that house.
With stalks called culms interwoven
underground, so an entire grove is
just one single plant. All that strength
to grow on and up to protect its offspring.
Little turion the tender young shoots bare
of leaves or branches. That grow auricles,
ear-like appendages on the base of leaves
that fanned out over that house, each season
taller and thicker and more resilient
than the one before.
We would spend long June days cutting
and hacking, with saws and spades.
Hauling the hard shoots like rows of
sugar cane out of the yard and away
from that house. In fall it would all
be back, runners roots spreading farther
and faster and growing thicker, towering
fronds mocking and taunting us.
We tried to contain it with barriers, it
broke through; tame it with herbicides,
it grew on; pull down hundreds of stalks,
it multiplied. It did take over. And
how she learned from its persistence
not to be diminished not to be defeated.
In March she dug a trench around the grove
filled it with kerosene and lit the bamboo
on fire. A blaze of green so brilliant she
cried, each rigid arm slackening and
dropping to the scorched earth. The
month before she moved alone from
that house one stalk remained with
delicate, talcum colored flowers.
I learned later bamboo rarely flowers.
It is longer than one persons’ lifetime
between flowerings; and if it does bloom,
it takes so much energy from the plant
that it dies.
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