1.03.2016

A Poem About Weeds

We are obsessed with flowers, bleeding inkwells dry grasping for the perfect female metaphor. Molesting canvas with amateur hotel art, rummaging through gas station Mother's Day bouquets, and think nothing of the February rose genocide. We can't get enough. While the Camus-lover in me admires the irony of taking something beautiful, killing it, and admiring its fleeting, ephemeral beauty, I can't help but think our values are misplaced.

What is a flower? What makes us imbue it with value? It's delicate, soft, and aesthetically pleasing.  Surely these are laudable traits. But consider for a moment, their corollary: the pesky weed. The scourge of weekend chores, the blight of gardens, and the Rosemary of the Kennedy dynasty. Their namesake is rejection. They are to be discarded and weeded out. Yet the weed persists. Without encouragement, love, or support, the weed thrives. It grows taller and stronger than it has any right to. It refuses to be stifled by concrete or human desires, exploiting the tiniest cracks and carving out space for itself. It grows during droughts, sneers at pesticide, and is too resourceful to yield. In an inhospitable world, the weed declares itself worthy of existence.

Yet this unlikely survivor has no place in our hearts. Why? Because it is not beautiful. No date dreams of having one plucked and presented on a doorstep. No mother wants it on the dinner table. Consider, for a moment, what the flower represents. It is youth and beauty. Every woman who's been compared to a rose by a hack with a ponytail and an acoustic guitar is subtly accosted by the notion her value is commensurate with the flower. A fragile, beautiful object to throw away when her leaves turn.

What if we reimagined our values?  What if, instead of giving your partner a rose, you yanked a weed from the parking lot? What if you stood for something other than beauty? Declared that growing from abject, brutal conditions was worthy of your poetry and the basis for your sonnets? Proclaimed that defiance, unruliness, and grit are sexy?

It is a mistake to declare all things beautiful. If everything is beautiful, nothing is beautiful. The real crime is boiling down all value to beauty. Leave beauty for the motel art and the Hallmark cards. The weed has no use for it. Its ragged leaves bear the fruit of persistence, its gnarled stem is steady, and when the big storm comes, it howls at the wind to bring it on.

These values make it righteous and help it earn its place squarely at the center of our dining tables, and pinned to our breast, reminds us of the other values we ought to strive for. Beauty is but one of many magnificent values.

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