BUT WILD, poem inspired by wild rice at Abbott Marshlands

For New Year’s Eve, no images, but words

Long ago, my editor at the Packet, and now my dear friend, Ilene Dube, insisted I become a blogger for them.

It was to focus on nature, especially of New Jersey.

But Ilene insisted that those blogs include my poetry.

As co-founder of Princeton’s storied Cool Women Poets, how could I refuse.

Here is one that was always a favorite at our jazz-like readings, in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Oregon — “But Wild”.

Of course, this theme was crucial to my Packet blog, and remains so now.

This poem was inspired by experiencing wild rice, 10 to 12 feet tall, which it achieves in one season, at the Abbott Marshlands, with Mary Leck, botanist extraoridinare, who, with her husband (ornithologist extraordinaire) Charlie Leck, put that Marsh on the map, internationally.


I seek a canoe

birch bark

still on the silk shore

of some broad Minnesota lake

in autumn

spice on the air

red-gold bittersweet twining

high among lakeside pines

water more green than blue

stiff/supple grasses parting

as we nose our silent way

to that center to which ancestors were led

by Grandfather Sky/Grandmother Moon

we make no sound

in whisper water

every clump of grass

bending in seasonal submission

my paddle enters the lake

noiseless as the sharpest knife

as my partner thrashes grasses

they bend to right/to left

filling his sweet lap

then our entire canoe

with brown black heads of rices

that have never been anything

but wild


August 24, 2001

4 thoughts on “BUT WILD, poem inspired by wild rice at Abbott Marshlands

  1. This takes me back to childhood summer vacations spent on Minnesota’s lakes…long before I knew the pleasures of wild rice but I did love the water. It’s lovely to see someone else’s appreciation of Minnesota. Thank you for this. Mary

    • Mary, in autumn I can walk you to the wild rice of the Marsh, on the hem of Sprimg Lake – an impressive experience. Yes, you and I and Betty Lies know certain glories of Minnesota.

      Happy New Year,


  2. I’ve never seen wild rice growing. Maybe someday? Happy new year. Your odd gift is on its way across the country. Love, p.

  3. Wild rice is stately and magnificent, strong and delicate at once. It is particularly impressive from the kayak, towering over one, especially when studded with red-winged blackbirds. Come in September, Penelope, and I can walk us to it at the Marsh.

    Blessings of the New Year, C

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