Water the Mud: A Poem

Water the Mud

by Joel E. Jacobson

I once wanted to grow
an apple, so I buried one whole–
stem, hypantheum, ovule, and all.
A squirrel dug it up, chattered
over it until a snake bit and killed
it. A crow carried the snake away
and the apple rotted in the afternoon sun.

I once wanted to write a sestina,
so I picked my six words,
wrangled them with barbed wire
to the pattern they belonged to–
trust me, I knew where the words went
and the idea was definitive
like the the end of the rainbow–
and waited for the poem to sprout.

I told a friend about Jesus once,
I could see so clearly how he
could be saved from so much calamity
and his story became words to me
his life like an apple.

need water to grow
beyond the mud.

If mud is all we see,
they become laundry–
full of holes–
drowning on the washboard.


This poem is my response to the challenge from Books & Culture to write a poem about cultivation. As always, I invite you to respond and discuss.


7 thoughts on “Water the Mud: A Poem

  1. The thing that I enjoyed the most about it was the structure. The rhythm was perfect. Also I love anything involving nature, poetry with wetness and muddiness evokes a very alive feeling.

    I think that the cultivation has already taken place before the events of the story. The apple is whole and adult, the friend’s story trumps Jesus, the water is an ingredient of the mud. Maybe the mud is preferable to the water? Thank you for poetry that makes me think!

  2. Hi, Jesse. Thanks for stopping by. Yes, outside of the speaker, everything is an adult cultivation. But in the speaker’s mind, there are many ideas, goals, and accomplishments left undone. I’m intrigued by your interpretation that the friend’s story trumps Jesus. How do you mean?

  3. You know, I can’t really figure out why, it just felt to me like the speaker attempted to tell a friend about Jesus, but instead ended up listening intently to the friends life and learning more from him than anything. It was how it felt to me anyway.

  4. Thanks for the recommendation, Joe. I was unfamiliar with Koethe, but I’m really intrigued after reading the sample poems on his bio page. It seems as if he starts with an image, moves on and around the image, and somehow draws it back together. I’ll have to look into some more of his work.

    Did you ever get my email regarding a list of elliptical poets?

  5. Kudos for mentioning sestinas! The poem’s sense of playful doom (in the beginning at least) reminded me a bit of “To Help the Monkey Cross the River” by Thomas Lux.

    Really, though, the highlight for me is

    If mud is all we see,
    they become laundry

    That is a metaphor I can meditate on a bit.

    Thanks for offering a link to Books and Culture!

  6. Thanks, Marcus! I’m not familiar with the Thomas Lux poem but I’ll check it out, I appreciate the recommendation. Thanks for stopping by and for the tweet!

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