Friday, October 10, 2008

The Educator as Gardener: Bringing Down the Tree

Thinking of Bill Ayers commitment to education as a radical act, I thought I would share this poem from a book of poems for educators, Teaching with Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach. The poem uses the metaphor of a garden. The poet is suggesting that the intention of radical educators is to send out thoughts that will metaphorically gnaw away in the dark and eventually uproot the tree at the center of the garden. But what does the tree represent for them? America’s cultural values? Political system?

The Seven Of Pentacles

Under a sky the color of pea soup
she is looking at her work growing away there
actively, thickly like grapevines or pole beans
as things grow in the real world, slowly enough.
If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water,
if you provide birds that eat insects a home and winter food,
if the sun shines and you pick off caterpillars,
if the praying mantis comes and the ladybugs and the bees,
then the plants flourish, but at their own internal clock.

Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.
You cannot tell always by looking what is happening.
More than half the tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.
Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.
Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.
Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.
Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.

Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.
Live a life you can endure: Make love that is loving.
Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,
a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us
interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.

Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:
reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.
This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,
for every gardener knows that after the digging, after
the planting,
after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.

by Marge Piercy

2 comments:

The Underground Pewster said...

I just can't get past the pea soup sky line. How about Carolina Blue?

Perpetua said...

Well, the title indicates a Tarot card. So, I think the premise of the poem is that she is contemplating the image on a Tarot card. I am thinking the deck uses this pea green color for all cards in the suit of pentacles.

Actually the peculiar green color works for me to signify upfront that this is about invidiousness. I read poem to be about covert destruction, encouraging the weed-like vines to grow and bring down the tree in the center of the garden, motivated by feelings of malicious envy.