Japanese knotweed in bloom. Photo: Jo Zimny Photos, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Japanese knotweed, or Japonica, is a nearly unkillable invasive ornamental that will fight it out with the cockroaches and rats for control of the post-apocalyptic wasteland, I predict. Or maybe I’m just sore from all the digging.


In early September you can see why last century landscapers
brought home Japanese knotweed. Atop the thicket of tall canes
the long blooms blow like the white manes of green horses.
Lovely, really – not needing weeding or feeding or pest control.

You see it around abandoned farmhouses spread up tight against
walls and windows, obscuring the ground floor, filling in the yard,
even pushing up through the hardpan of the driveway, shading out
everything else that once lived: sedges, flowers, and shrubbery.

Behind our house in the village, it spread each spring back out
from its redoubt behind a backyard neighbor’s carriage house
to push beyond the fence, boxelders, and spirea, into our yard.
And every year we dug, yanked, and mowed it back to the fence.

It was the gardening equivalent of making little rocks out of big.
Pointless in the long run — you couldn’t get it all; nothing could.
In the basement we would find pale sun-starved stalks grown
between the sandstone blocks of the foundation, undiscouraged.

Moving out beyond the village brought no respite. There it was,
flourishing amid the rubble of the old dairy barn. Each year since
the stalemate has run, like trench warfare, one side or the other
gaining a few feet. And each season I bust another shovel, digging.

Note: unpublished draft

This entry was posted in In current ms., Poetry, The Other Village. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Knotweed

  1. Scott Barton says:

    Ha! Dale, I like it. Reminds me of this poem of mine on Isaiah 5:1-7:

    Consummate Gardener

    I think I know how Yahweh felt,
    This pain Isaiah knew to tell;
    For I have oft been blessed to dwell
    Where stinking vines made gardening hell.

    I know the feeling that you’d like
    To cut it all down in some pique,
    To slash and burn, to cut and strike,
    Since weeds nor vines grow never meek.

    But then you take another breath,
    And cultivate with love and care,
    For weeds, nor vines, nor garden’s death
    Can make your essence, you forswear.

    The Lord would still a garden tend
    Where fruits of love and kindness grow,
    And cultivates for that sole end,
    Since, “It was good” is all God knows.

    • Dale Hobson says:

      Thanks Scott,

      If there had been knotweed in Eden, it would have choked out the apple tree, along with everything that one might eat of. What would have been the serpent’s plan B?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *