March 23, 2020

Yellow Jessamine: A coronavirus haiku

Yellow jessamine
infects a premature Spring:
Fragrant and lethal.

Gelsemium sempervirens, known as yellow jessamine or Carolina
is a toxic plant with alkaloids related to strychnine that 
figures i
the plot of an Agatha Christie mystery and an episode of House of Cards

March 23, 2020
Williamsburg, Virginia


#CoronaHaiku at the suggestion of Daniel Mendelsohn

See also "The Fish Trap," winner of anthropological poetry prize

March 20, 2020

The Fish Trap: Winning poem featured by for World Poetry Day

The fish trap

The fish trap is sun bleached dry half
buried in squeaking white
sand under an equatorial
moon that wants to walk across the black
mirror but instead is twice
swallowed by river and 

It is both an elegant and obsolete
thing this hybrid carcass of palm
staves lashed with sinewy vines an incongruous
coil of copper wire binding some
ancient fracture burnished
golden by the 

He dismembers it like some beast on a
skewer its ribs and sinews yielding to dark
vegetable hands function
not lost but transformed as he starts
a fire and the flattened
helix glows among the 

The fish lie on the bank by the haul
net sucking at the futile night
air through pumping gills still
they watch him stunned through
glazing water as red
halos ebb behind open

And he feeds the last
of the trap to the
flames under a gnarled
pot on the beach flickering between
an empty village and the black
river under the smothered 


Poem chosen as a winner in the 2020 anthropological poetry prize by

Read my introduction to the poem for #WorldPoetryDay

Hear me read "The Fish Trap" on SoundCloud

Thanks to Christine Weeber, Eshe Lewis, Kim Herbst and Daniel Salas for editorial input, graphic design, artwork and web design on behalf of

See also "Yellow Jessamine," a haiku for a toxic coronavirus Spring