Opposites Attract Poetry


Advice works best when you can apply it both specifically and universally. The dichotomy of such things is a rich vein for poets to mine: concrete and abstract, specific and universal, physical and psychological.

We get a taste of this in the directives of Jeff Coomer’s “Some Advice for Clearing Brush.” Take it literally and it works. Take it figuratively and it still works. Therefore, according to my unschooled syllogism, it works.

Read along and see. Note especially the final stanza, how it can be stated in different words, how those words can sound like wisdom being passed down through the ages, how it may work for situations you’ve faced and may yet have to face.

Yeah. Like that. Specific and universal.

Some Advice for Clearing Brush by Jeff Coomer

Walk noisily to declare your presence.
The rabbits and deer will leave
as soon as they hear you coming,
but the snakes need time
to process your intentions.

Take a moment to be certain
of what you’re cutting.
Many stems look alike
down close to the ground,
especially when they’re young.
Look up occasionally.

Don’t begrudge the wild roses
for whipping thorns across
your face and arms,
or the honeysuckle
for tangling your feet
and pulling the pruners
from your hands. You’d do
the same in their place.
Honor them with a clean cut.

Never begin when you’re angry
or you might not stop
until there’s nothing left
to hold the soil.

Always wear gloves
and keep your eye
on the blade.

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