Hemlock, Finch, October ~ John Hazard


In English, ‘hemlock’ refers not only to poison hemlock, but to water hemlock, hemlock water dropwort, lesser hemlock (fool’s parsley), and other herbs as well, all resembling each other in their lacy, umbrella-like flowers and tiny fruits.  (Enid Bloch)   


Here on the trail is a poison hemlock plant.
Over there is a hemlock tree, its elegant skirts
unfurled. Know your hemlocks.

Notice the stalks of milkweed too, the soft,
vaguely erotic, dirty white pods gazing down
an autumn slope dotted mustard-gold,

then willow, holly berry, bramble bush,
and by the creek a pumpkin, possum-gnawed,
which reminds me of the dead finch

back at the house, under the window. I’m here
to forget her, lying there, her downy back that familiar
olive-dun, nothing noteworthy except for death,

until I was startled by her eyes, squeezed shut,
a scrupulous child counting time in hide and seek.
Ready or not, here comes the world’s big puzzle

to kill the finch, tell her A, then tell her B,
then gloat that  C   was the answer all along,
and how could she be so slow? Look out,

little bird. In that window, you only think you see
some airy square of blue—backdrop
for golden trees and a thousand places to land.