Old Man Wearing Vegetation by Patricia Fargnoli

after a photograph by Riitta Ikonen and Karoline Hjorth

He stands in a salt marsh up to his knees in the black water.
Around him sedges and rushes grow waist high.
Over his shoulders he wears a long shawl of cord grass
which with one arm he clasps to his chest like armor.
He might be pledging allegiance
to the natural world he stands on.
The other arm hangs by his side.
Thinning brown hair plastered on his forehead.
Gray beard. Squint lines around his eyes.
When I was a child I would go
into the fields behind our house and lie down
in tall timothy and sedges.
Hidden there, my body pressed a little circle
into the grass. All I could see
was the pristine blue of sky above me
and those otherworldly beings the clouds
that were always trailing
across my vision to somewhere else
like a movie about almost nothing.
The man of the marsh is not a god
he has not stepped out of folklore,
is not part of a myth—
only an old man who has been talked into
standing here draped with what has been
pulled up from a marsh somewhere in Norway.
The photographer’s vision: he
is transforming into landscape,
the way at the end we all become
marsh grass, cumulus, sky.
Patricia Fargnoli, the NH Poet Laureate from 2006-2009, has published four books of poems and three chapbooks. Her latest book, Winter, comes out from Hobblebush Books, fall 2013 . Her three previous books are award-winning: Then, Something,Tupelo Press 2009 co-won the New England Poetry Club’s Sheila Mooton Book Award and the ForeWord Silver Poetry Award; Duties of the Spirit, Tupelo Press, 2005, won the NH Literary Award for Poetry and Necessary Light, Utah State University Press, 1999, won the May Swenson Book Award. Pat, a former Macdowell Fellow, has published poems in such journals as: Ploughshares, Harvard Review, Image, Green Mountains Review, Massachusetts Review, Poetry, etc..