Poem of the Week | September 05, 2016

This week, we are proud to present a new poem by Christine Stewart-Nuñez. A poet and essayist, Stewart-Nuñez is the author of Untrussed (University of New Mexico Press 2016), Bluewords Greening (Terrapin Books 2016), Keeping Them Alive (WordTech Editions 2011), and Postcard on Parchment (ABZ Press 2008). Her piece “An Archeology of Secrets” was a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2012. She teaches in the English Department at South Dakota State University. Find her work at christinestewartnunez.com.

Author’s note:

My son Holden has a rare form of epilepsy called Landau-Kleffner Syndrome. At age five, it robbed him of his ability to understand and use language fluently; the seizures continue to make it difficult for him to remember new skills and attend to tasks. The languages of the senses aren’t as impaired, so they’ve become important ways of learning for him. My study of a bunch of nature photographs he took inspired this poem.



This green lives in fire, shimmers in water, moistens stone…
—Schipperges speaking of Hildegard’s concept of “greening.”

In frame after frame, Holden photographed
greenness: lawn grass, a trellis of vines, branches
of oak leaves, needles of a coniferous tree.
The entire frame of variegated hostas is filled
with unfurling flags of summer, some leaves
with lime centers outlined in chartreuse, others
green as grass. The leftmost leaf lolls
like a tongue, the rest curved with curled tips.
He looks so closely, as if ready to lick
the leaf, and why not? When we weeded
the herb garden, we pinched off new dill, broke
off stems of parsley to taste, tongued ribbons
of chives. With each nibbled sprout of cilantro,
his eyes brightened, each burst of flavor settling,
rain-ripened and raw, in his throat.


Hildegard said the soul is like sap, a body-syrup,
a greening energy. Like her, I believe meaning
quickens from within, sometimes slow
as it does in a womb and a seed, sometimes
explosive as it does from a host of ginger
in the mouth and a brain besot with seizures.
The photo that won the art competition
was of a green cactus with yellow spines
that could prick a finger, pin a tongue.
Not Holden’s. His photos invite us
to taste life with our succulent eyes.