You can almost watch them grow,
how swift they come up mid summer
and grind their way towards the sun.
They dare the cutlass come. Believe
they’ll extract their own small gorge
of flesh in return. Bull thistle
thug with it. Come bees, come.
painted lady butterfly, come. goldfinch
come. but bull thistle stays the cattle, taunts
the man with the machete, grows taut
and leans toward the crib’s front door.
Bull thistle rap sheet long. Invasive
they say; hardy and armed. Bull thistle
sentinel the walkway and watch West
side streets. The boys draw long steel
but Bull thistle OG—keep a blade
in its cheek. How it finds and keeps
purchase in the leaden soil is its own
mystery, but I’ll not fuck with its leaves
or kingly crown though my liver might
could use its milled essence for tea,
to purify the engine of my body’s
eternal longings to magic the brain
to alchemy into night’s most ruthless
So sudden and brazen they show
together, I imagine the cicadas
and them in brilliant cahoots,
the boys drumming their insides
nearly loose as the purple crowns
nut forth their cotton heads. Late
summer; another song humming
from the East and North. The hawk
is coming it says, a warning blast
even on these last days of MidWest
swelter. And the cicadas answer back
in their cuffing season moves, their
desperate abdominal rattling not unlike
the post 2AM hour at the club,
the holler more brash and outlandish
than early on when we thought we would
be young and lovely all night.
Bull thistle answers too. Reaches a tap
root into the dirt beneath the contaminated
lithosphere. Bull thistle talks tall
shit now, threatens to reach down even
to the earth’s mantle to hold on
to what it needs to survive the coming brick.
My locked up brothers say winter is time
to get back to the trap – to prepare for the months
ahead, to make-ready for another summer, stack
bills for the eventual get-out; the everyman dream
of not being the one whose face air brushes
a t-shirt when the days get long. Bull thistle
trappin. Bull thistle tappin. Is the too-loud
analogy here. Bull thistle bussin wild shots
and shouts of white clots and clouts to hieroglyph
these blocks and clods of earth it reps. I respect –
get down low and fling my blade around its roots
let homie grow the season long, and wave
its limbs at the bees and birds and streets.
This simple sweat I milk from the bitter
earth is win enough for me. I heed the thistle,
sip my gin and plot my winter work.
It’s coming. Cicadas ain’t whistling
for nothing. I bid the purple crown
and thorny scepter adieu.