David Welch

of Chicago, IL

Winner of the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award in 2014

Wild Asparagus

Eating something in order to identify it is not
the smartest thing I've ever done.
I am always on the run—That's nature.
It's my most distinguishing feature.
I work. I earn. I ply my wits.
Take imagination for instance:

it's stricken by fits—And fights of fancy
to spats of speaking itself aloud.
It's that man in stripes and a stocking cap—
Always hoping to be standing
and discovered lonely in a crowd.
But when we take ourselves aback,

we turn to discover the world
with our mouths. That's how such poison
comes—Like a dog. It sings to itself.
It hums. It laps at the groundwater
with a soft but fearless tongue. Then it sleeps
with open eyes—In case it needs to run.

 

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Jericho Brown on David Welch

The winner of PSA's 2014 Lucille Medwick Award is "Wild Asparagus".  In eighteen lines, the poet manages to render several tones while cleaving to an enticing unity of internal rhymes and well-crafted rhythms.  For instance, the poem begins with the seemingly humorous and deadpan, "Eating something in order to identify it is not/the smartest thing I've ever done;" it moves on to its middle stanza's borrowed dignity, "Always hoping to be standing/and discovered lonely in a crowd;" and then it ends with images that look like the ultimate acknowledgment of vulnerability, "[The dog representing the self and the self's terror] laps at the groundwater/with a soft but fearless tongue.  Then it sleeps/with open eyes—In case it needs to run."  And in between these stops are bouts of enlightenment woven together by a film-like method of cross-cutting for the poem's plummeting speed.  Instead of taking any of these tones and feelings too seriously, the poem chooses to embody them for what they are in an alarmingly ordered manner (three sestets equals 666) that speaks to the chaos within each human being, a chaos we seem contracted to ignore.  Well, "Wild Asparagus" refuses to ignore it, and therefore, this poem is more interested in humanity than what some of us are who eat vegetables hoping to live longer.

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