After Muscling Through Sharp Greenery
The second poem’s about vegetation again. Hudgins appears to be sending his messages through the symbolism of specific plants — the “greenery” of the title is the greenery of the yew, a tree rich in meaning and history. Yews are sacred, associated with regeneration (they’re evergreen), associated with death (they’re poisonous, they’re planted in graveyards), associated with immortality (they’re long-lived and hard to kill), associated with Christ (their berries are red like blood), associated with pre-Christian beliefs (they’re sacred to the druids) … I could go on, but won’t.
It takes him a while to tell us the “sharp greenery” is the branches of the yew. It takes him a while to tell us that he’s destroying the indestructible, cutting it down. Instead of telling us what tree he’s killing, he tells us how he does it: cutting the branches as close to the trunk as possible, lopping the top of the tree, sawing what remained of the branches to the stump, mulching the branches, and then working to dig the stump out of the ground — then and only then does he mention the yew.
“I traced the yew roots deep,” he writes.
I tore and teased them from the greasy clay,
tugged and pulled and chopped
…………………………………………….until the stump
sagged in the ground, unfixed. And now I own
what I desire:
It’s tempting to claim he’s making a statement about faith and unbelief, about the loss of faith, the digging out of the sacred. I want to go off and look up the meanings of the plants he lists when he contemplates filling the hole, and I will; but for now I don’t have to, I know that they’re “paper-thin”, white, and fragile.