TWO POEMS – Josephine Greenland

Image: Rachel Ruysch (1664-1750)

Josephine Greenland is a British-Swedish writer holding an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham. A prose writer at heart, she is currently working on her first novel. When not writing, she can be seen wandering in the mountains or playing her violin.



A biological cartographer
in a bracken of unclassifieds
I pass through nomenclature
microscope for an eye.

Here is dwarf willow,
creeping the earth carpet
catkins tilted to buttercup sun
– the Ranunculus on cumulus.

Yellow catkins and red catkins,
I signify you male and female.

I classify you: woody plant, diocious.
I baptize you: Salix Herbacea,
I sample you: Regnum Vegetabile.
I dry your leaves, for montage in glass.
I translate you.
I forget you.

I walk for etymology.

My undulating latin tracks
mapping stony Nordic expanse.

Here, the genus of bell heathers.
There, the acidity of wolf lichen.

A biological cartographer
in an ecology of names
trampling the bracken of unclassifieds.

The Man Who Spoke To Catkins

Etymology is written in the pistil. I trace it in the catkin; that little cat’s tail pinched between my fingers. Read it, through the microscope; hold it there, up to the stem, yellow hairs pressing against the glass. See the words now, all lower case, nestled under the flower cluster. Gynoecium, single carpel, raising its filaments to cover itself. The pistil is a shy little thing; look how it bends its head, tucking its chin in for modesty. Bend down, put the glass aside and use your ears as microscopes. The camp grows thick with whispers, of convergent evolution and ancestral inflorescence: the systems of nature through the kingdoms of nature, according to the species, the synonyms, the places. Dig down, root your fingers, absorb the words into your skin for safekeeping, they must be intact when you write them down. When plants speak, the biologist is the student; he must learn patience to capture their words.

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