One For The Road

The lone petunia growing in a driveway crack is an illustration of nothing but itself, a weak domestic hybrid planted by the wind and chance.

The fact that it survives hardier mums and marigolds and holds to the blown landscape of November is no testament to will or strength, because the car stands over it at night, heat from the engine block keeping frost away, upper leaves dark where they brush the black transmission.

No reason to make anything of this — I park where I've always parked. Anyway, what would be the point in playing such a game, with winter holding trump? If I idle the motor for a while before turning in, it's for an easier start in the morning. I don't kid myself about what I can do to help this dumb, green life waving goodbye when I leave, goodbye when I come home again.

In "One for the Road," we have man over nature —literally, while idling his car. But the stubborn petunia that found life in the crack of a driveway, and whose growing was an act of chance, not only survives the exhaust from the poet's car, but seems to thrive. What will kill the flower is not the car but the approaching winter. For now, the plant waves "goodbye" when the poet leaves and "goodbye" when he comes home —not "hello"— because the second "goodbye" is an allusion to what will outlast the writer: nature.

It is perfectly allowable to take such a pronature stance when writing poems about the environment. The point is to avoid a didactic tone. In sum, environmental verse can be as celebratory as traditional nature poetry; but it also should allude to ecological arguments and contemplate the essence of what some would label "a sullied world."

By alluding to arguments and showing how nature endures, the poet deflects preachiness.

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