A should-be-famous poem

Trillium ©Janet Allen
Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

This poem was written by May Theilgaard Watts, founder of Illinois Prairie Path, the first successful rails-to-trails conversion.

It was written in 1980 (I believe) and describes a process of destroying beautiful native woodlands with lawns — a process that has continued unabated since then.

I can only imagine the grief she felt as she witnessed this destruction.

On Improving the Property

by May Theilgaard Watts

They laid the trilliums low,
and where drifted anemones and wild sweet phlox
were wont to follow April's hepaticas — they planted grass.

There was a corner that held a tangled copse
of hawthorne and young wild crabs
bridal in May above yellow violets,
purple-twigged in November.
They needed that place for Lombardy poplars — and grass.

Last June the elderberry was fragrant here,
and in October the viburnum poured its wine
beneath the moon-yellow wisps of the witch-hazel blossoms.
They piled them in the alley and made a burnt offering — to grass.

There was a slope that a wild grapevine had captured long ago.
At its brink a colony of mandrakes held green umbrellas close,
like a crowd along the path of a parade.
This job almost baffled them; showers washed off the seed
and made gullies in the naked clay.
They gritted their teeth — and planted grass.

At the base of the slope there was a hollow
so lush with hundreds of years of fallen leaves
that maiden-hair swirled above the trout-lilies,
and even a few blood-roots lifted frosty blossoms there.
Clay from the ravaged slope washed down
and filled the hollow with a yellow hump.
They noticed the hump — and planted grass.

There was a linden that the bees loved.
A smug catalpa has taken its place,
but the wood ashes were used to fertilize the grass.

People pass by and say: "Just look at that grass —
not a weed in it. It's like velvet!"
(One could say as much for any other grave.)