Mount Diablo poems


Where Bald Ridge trail ends in Prospectors Gap
water seeps out from a crack in greywacke
below the summit
and Devil’s pulpit

Mapped first by Mary Bowerman 1944 in
The Flowering Plants and Ferns of Mount Diablo, California

Mimulus guttata
Gold monkeyflowers lean on long pedicels
over springwater
reflection of monkey face petals,
mimics their mirror image

laughing monkey

Miwok crushed leaves to treat sores and burns
Root eases fever, dysentery, hemorrhage

Pioneers seasoned meat with
leaves and stems,
concentrate salts from soil

Orange Sticky Monkey secretes resin
to feed hungry larvae of the buckeye butterfly
and stunt their growth
so they eat fewer leaves

tricky monkey

Scarlet Monkeyflower boasts
the most nectar
luring hummingbirds, to kiss their foreheads with pollen

Mud clouds Mimulus Spring most days
Clouds muddy waters with spring rain
Which mimics which?

by m.j.smith



13 thoughts on “Mount Diablo poems

  1. I wasn’t familiar with the mimulus or monkeyflower, so I had to google it – it looks a bit like a fancy pansy! I like the colour and close observation of nature in this poem.

  2. This is an awesome poem in so many ways. It reads like it should be in a hiker’s guide… but not just for the information… for the smiles, the laughs, and the aws! I learned, but I also admired the format, the phrasing, the sly power of both plant and poet.

    • Hey, thanks! When you say it sounds like a hiker’s guide, you have nailed it. I love the hard realism of natural history books and have been trying to merge their content with the figures of sound and speech in poetry. This is my most recent experiment.

  3. What I loved most was learning of this plant’s medicinal properties. I think we have so many “cures” in nature and would love to see more of them discovered and put to use and replace harmful man-made chemical medicines that often hurt more than they help. Thanks for the field trip!

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