Lechuguilla: An Excerpt from ‘Hey, Marfa

Poetry by Jeffrey Yang


I t can take twenty years

for the agave lechuguilla

to bloom and seed, maize-

yellow anthers, perched

Image: Graywolf Press. (Purchase)

like commas atop crimson

filaments, hang ten in the air

around the lone

panicle

stalk, giant

hummingbird tongue

bends to sky

from the mouth of a spiny

star body, rooted to earth, wildly

suckering rosettes, fruit sets once

a lifetime, the lechuguilla

flowers for maybe four days

before it dies

only to be

reborn

as a clone

off-

shoots choice toxic juice

for javelinas

JEFFREY YANG is the author of the poetry collection Hey, Marfa (chosen as a Best Book of 2018 by The New York Times and Library Journal), and the translator of Bei Dao’s autobiography City Gate, Open Up, which received an honorable mention for the MLA Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize.