A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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December 2007, vol 3 no 4

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Jeffrey Woodward


Goat's Beard

"That's not a very pleasant name for a flower–goat's beard. Nor is Tragopogon dubius much better."

She knows flowers intimately–mostly the garden varieties–but she also studied Latin in school. Eager to affirm, if asked, that she, indeed, enjoys Latin and holds some pride in its acquisition.

Our field guide offers a four-color photograph of the plant in full flower: eight or so lance-like bracts with rays longer than the golden florets. The specimen before us, however, has flowered before our arrival and only its fruit remains: a generous crown of seeds, like a gargantuan dandelion, the feathery down and white parachute of each seed perfectly in place.

"Did you make a wish," she asks, "and blow the dandelion seed away as a child?"

I pick the goat's beard and gingerly hold the globe up for her admiration, afraid that the least tremble of my wrist might send the seeds off upon the four winds.

"No, I don't remember doing that."

She does not hear my reply, busy as she is with scouring the field guide.

"Noon flower," she announces, "or Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon ... From the plant's behavior: closing shop, by noon, to quit the sun's rays. Now those names are more leisurely, more elegant, more suggestive."

I involuntarily stroke my grizzled beard–there, in my weedy kingdom, inviting a nymph to join me. She is younger, far younger, than I.

No trace of a breeze on this blazing morning and yet one seed and then another and yet another slips from its place in my hand.

noon flower—
the solitude of
a wish floats away