dVerse Poets Pub – Meeting the Bar – narrative: Kudzu

Victoria is in charge of the Poets Pub today, asking us to write a first person narrative. I do not usually write such long poems but this one has been working inside my brain for a year and I decided to finally let it out. The Pub opens at 3:00 pm EST. Come visit. And I hope this long one doesn’t bore you – it’s almost as long as a tendril of kudzu….

public domain image

public domain image

“The night the Kudzu has your pasture, you sleep like the dead.” James Dickey: Kudzu
The summer before we married
I told my fiancé about a road trip – taken by
a friend and I in my flower child salad days.
Walter died the summer of ‘93
From lung cancer. I looked
at the kudzu taking over an abandoned house
and remembered:
Twenty years earlier we both
were employed in a new restaurant genre –
Vegetarian…health food/hippie food with
Poetry readings every weekend –
Usually long rambling self-important
rants about the government, The Man, peace,
Sex, drugs, and Ravi Shankar. The ones about peace
Were always angry which I never understood why…

But one night the owner/chef went off on a bad bad trip, man
And I was pulled off the line and did the job that night
So much better, I was promoted – on.the.spot.

The restaurant had the unfortunate soubriquet of
Chez Kudzu….lord have mercy on us
but it was at a time all Southern Writers were
writing reams about kudzu and sweet tea
and Walter read how all kudzu was just really one plant
stretched out for vining miles.
Chez Kudzu closed for two weeks in July
And Walter and I decided to follow the kudzu,
starting with the kudzu forest in Duke Forest.
He and I followed the kudzu twined on the power lines there
all the way to Charlotte where we pulled over
in the soft July night and smoked a joint
and breathed in the aroma of the cornfield
On both sides of us –
In the humid air – sweeter and more fragrant
than the Thai pot that made our ears buzz
and the air vibrate with the sound of cicadas
and frogs and the trill of bats
On that black country road.
he went to sleep and I watched a summer storm
in the distance – watched the distant flashes of lightning
and inhaled the scent of rain with a sense of deep peace –
The scent of distant rain floating
over the perfume of the corn
and rich earth and wild creeping jasmine –
I inhaled the fragrance of lemon and Thai and rain
And when the storm hit,
I felt the car shiver in the wind but
I never closed the windows letting myself
be purified by the incoming rain –
in the lightning flashes
looking up at the ghosts of kudzu climbing up
telephone poles and moving steadily south
by way of the wires. I watched it stretching
towards the rain and the deeper south
and could I hear it as it grew and twined.
And the song of it lulled me to sleep.

I awakened early in the morning –
The sound of birds and Walter snoring
and the sound of a dog barking –
away across the fields.

I started to awaken Walter
and then stopped –
Creeping in the car window
wrapped around my wrist
was kudzu – grown in the night
while I slept – fed on my dreams
And Southern summer night air.

free public domain image

free public domain image

38 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. thefeatheredsleep
    Feb 25, 2016 @ 13:13:52

    Gosh. Many words. A veritable world more prose poetry. Lovely and sad.


  2. Victoria C. Slotto
    Feb 25, 2016 @ 15:42:29

    I love the voice in this and I felt as though I was hurled into the 60’s. Notice I didn’t say back to the 60’s…as I was out of touch those years. I had to look up kudzu in the dictionary–but what a powerful metaphor it creates. Strong first person narrative that leads me wondering what is true and what is fictional. Thank you.


  3. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
    Feb 25, 2016 @ 15:50:50

    Ah,.. I can almost feel the kudzo growing into you just like that pot did… this is a real trip for sure. So far from anything I have ever seen… so many memories I never had…


    • kanzensakura
      Feb 25, 2016 @ 15:54:53

      Kudzu is a Japanese plant introduced to help erosion in the Dust Bowl and parts of farm ravaged south east. It is invasive but cattle thrive on it. unfortunately, cattle don’t roam wild to eat it up. during the summer, there is a myth the stuff grows a foot day, but that isn’t true. Interesting stuff. If you stand still at the verge of kudzu growth in the summer for about an hour, you will truly find it creeping towards it. It loves heat and humidity.


  4. Bodhirose
    Feb 25, 2016 @ 16:20:36

    Kudzu is rampant here in Florida. We have the perfect weather for it to grow and cover everything in sight…and in some places it does! I absolutely loved your narrative poem, every word,Toni and I can say it did take me back to the 60s because I did live through them…unlike Victoria. 🙂


  5. Linda Kruschke
    Feb 25, 2016 @ 16:23:45

    I don’t think this is too long, at all. Any shorter and the kudzu wouldn’t have been believable. This made me think of the Johnny Cash song “The L & N Don’t Stop Here Anymore.” It’s the only other place I’ve ever heard a reference to kudzu. Peace, Linda


    • kanzensakura
      Feb 25, 2016 @ 20:11:03

      We Southerners have lots of references to kudzu in our literature. It was a stylus motif in the 40’s – 70’s. Not many folk up north are familiar with it because it lives hot hot hot and humidity. The dried vines are often used to weave unique baskets or mats. The flowers actually smell like grape bubblegum.


  6. Sanaa Rizvi
    Feb 25, 2016 @ 17:44:40

    I held my breath as I read your offering… so beautifully expressed ❤


  7. ghostmmnc
    Feb 25, 2016 @ 17:47:23

    Wow! I loved this whole story, and wouldn’t mind if it had been longer. I want to know what happened next! Beautiful words entwining just like the kudzu, to make me feel like I was right there. 🙂


    • kanzensakura
      Feb 25, 2016 @ 20:06:56

      I am so glad you enjoyed this. That morning we drove a few miles to a country diner and filled up on strong coffee and pancakes. We made it to NOLA and turned around to barely get back in time for when the restaurant opened back up. We had some good times and Walter actually met his future wife there in NOLA. A good friend and a great roadtrip and everywhere was kudzu.


  8. georgeplace2013
    Feb 25, 2016 @ 19:11:19

    You nailed it. The mood is wonderful. That kudzu claims everything in its path.


  9. whimsygizmo
    Feb 25, 2016 @ 22:59:10

    I love that last stanza, especially.


  10. mishunderstood
    Feb 25, 2016 @ 23:28:10

    There is so much I love about this.
    Kudzu was new to me so kudos to kudzu! I like how it grows and weaves it’s way throughout your story. The fact that this is not fiction makes it even more interesting and it truly appeals to the senses.
    I would love to smell “the fragrance of lemon and Thai and rain”..wow

    If I could…I would live most of my life on road trips.


  11. kim881
    Feb 26, 2016 @ 04:09:50

    A fabulous memory poem. It brought back so many of my own, not of the sixties but the seventies. I was going to write something a little like this but the memories made me anxious – and then I posted something that’s made me even more anxious!


  12. http://vivinfrance.wordpress.com
    Feb 26, 2016 @ 06:08:04

    I’d never heard of Kudzu, and am not much wiser now! Is it anything like bindweed? AYou’ve given us a vivid depiction of a life!


  13. Mary
    Feb 26, 2016 @ 09:07:37

    What a tale this is, Toni. You make kudzu likable really. I know in some areas they have teams that go out to try to eradicate it. Your poem gives me a kind of nostalgia for the times that were wonderful once but will never be able to be lived again!


  14. Glenn Buttkus
    Feb 26, 2016 @ 15:36:23

    Way up north in WA state we battle blackberry vines, very hardy, & capable of swallowing a yard. a field, or an abandoned house. Your piece was delectable,
    revealing, with an incredible sense of place (of course I like longer poems). Road
    trips are a staple for my wife & I, in our Camry Hybrid-getting 42 mpg.


    • kanzensakura
      Feb 26, 2016 @ 20:08:09

      We have blackberries too but they don’t come close to kudzu for sheer devouring power. My Chevy belair ragtop didn’t get great mileage but it was a sweet road eating ride and floated on any road. My husband doesn’t like road trips but sometimes I run away.


  15. Candy
    Feb 26, 2016 @ 19:06:19

    this was a real “trip”. thanks for taking us along. 😉


  16. Kathy Reed
    Feb 27, 2016 @ 00:55:39

    Yes, a memorable ‘trip’ that inthralled me from the beginning. I felt I was in the front seat of a movie theater and had become part of the movie itself. Your story went to the heart of me…giving me insight with your wonderful descriptive words.


  17. Adriana Citlali Ramírez
    Feb 27, 2016 @ 07:37:25

    Peace poetry does tend to be a rant!
    I like the narrative here, how you create an environment and tell us just enough to make us live it.


  18. lillian
    Feb 27, 2016 @ 08:23:33

    Such a tale here……..really enjoyed reading. Loved the “flower child salad days”….and the every growing, twining, entwining kudzu. I was with you every word…


  19. Hannah Gosselin
    Feb 27, 2016 @ 14:03:14

    So many delectable full descriptions especially this:

    “In the humid air – sweeter and more fragrant
    than the Thai pot that made our ears buzz
    and the air vibrate with the sound of cicadas
    and frogs and the trill of bats
    On that black country road.”

    Lovely and audible!


  20. Let's CUT the Crap!
    Feb 27, 2016 @ 18:36:58

    You do have a way with words, Toni, the way you spin and unfurl them and they twine round and round till the story unfolds, one mesmerizing picture at a time.
    Wonderful. ❤ ❤
    I'm so far behind these days. Apologies for not visiting sooner. 🙂


  21. Bryan Ens
    Feb 28, 2016 @ 14:14:48

    Love your image of the song of the kudzu. Wonderful storytelling in this.


  22. el34ax7
    Mar 01, 2016 @ 20:56:19

    Why is it I’m never homesick until I read your words about the South, your past, and those simple moments that we seem to have shared?

    I miss those thunderstorms.


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