Friday, January 29, 2021

Poetry Friday: Shepherd's Purse

Shepherd's Purse

by Paul Perry

In the field - 

shepherd's purse;


to be seen even in the dark.


Think on it - after the gravel paths, 

after the roads - uneven and achingly long,

across the cold promise the border makes

to a sloping field, to a ditch.




More than that I remember the flat-seed pouch:


weed some call it, as if to flourish and seed

in the poorest soil is to be just that.

They are everywhere now - 

it seems to me,

populating my field of vision

like a generative disease, an affliction.


a man walks into a field.

A field with shepherd's purse.


You can read the whole poem here.


Shepherd's Purse. (Source:


In the parts I left out above, something traumatic happens in the middle of the peaceful field full of shepherd's purse.  Paul Perry is from Ireland, but traumatic things happen everywhere, in the middle of peaceful fields and peaceful streets and peaceful lives. I loved the way the poet here puts the emphasis on the traumatic thing and on the peaceful surroundings, both. Both are real. Forever after, seeing the shepherd's purse will bring back the traumatic thing, but that doesn't make the shepherd's purse any less beautiful. (Notice how he dismisses the word "weed.") 


I love the way poetry has room for both: the beauty and the pain. 

You should definitely click through and read the whole thing. It's short. Here's the link again.


Jan has today's roundup. 


Linda Mitchell said...

This is a poem that I read through again because it got my attention. I wanted to figure out why. Your comments about the poem ring true to me. There can be beautiful and terrible in the same life and the same poem. Thank you for sharing this with your thoughts.

Tabatha said...

I'll remember this poem, Ruth...thanks for sharing it. As you say, "Both are real."

I looked up shepherd's purse because I was curious about the name and also thought it was medicinal, but I couldn't remember its properties. The name comes from the seed pods looking like what shepherds would bring into the field to carry their lunch and drink. (In England and Scotland, it was once called 'mother's heart', from a child's game/trick of picking the seed pod, which then would burst and the child would be accused of 'breaking his mother's heart') Medicinal property: astringency, used to stop bleeding.

Linda B said...

It does seem important that the "passage" happened within something beautiful, at least that is what I envision. Finding a blessing in tragedy feels like what someone would do, should do? Thanks, Ruth, your sharing always makes me think.

Jone said...

Poetry is a perfect way to share the traumatic. Thank you for sharing.

laurasalas said...

I love how grounded these opening and closing parts are, and how much more vague the omitted part is. Nothing graphic. Nothing as concrete as these plants. No matter how wonderful or horrible we humans are, the world in all its amazing glory goes on...Thanks for sharing this, Ruth.

jan godown annino said...

Hello dear Ruth,
As is often my good fortune with you here, I've learned of a poet new-to-me. {And one who also has a children's book out & a novel debut this year.} Reading the complete poem I feel the loss he limns in this poem & also the effort to think of a future after loss. Thank you for finding the plant's foto as I didn't know of this wayside beauty, thought of as a mere weed. I think I will like to read more of Paul Perry.
(plus--He has a Florida connection in times past!)

Carmela Martino said...

Your comment is so on-target, Ruth:
I love the way poetry has room for both: the beauty and the pain.
I hadn't planned to read the whole poem until you encouraged us to click through. I'm glad I did. Thank you.

Kay said...

I am glad poetry (and life) has room for both the painful and beautiful. SO often moments in life are not just one or another, but both intertwined.

Carol Varsalona said...

Ruth, this poem is one to read again as you mentioned because of the simplicity of nature's beauty and the intricacy of the message.

michelle kogan said...

…and then after the pain, he gives us this spellbound line to close, "he falls into the embrace of a field of flowers,"thanks Ruth.

Bridget Magee said...

Your post and Perry's poem are the perfect reminders that we cannot have light without the darkness. Thanks for sharing this poem, Ruth. :)