Good Friday 2004: Sin

I know you by name now.

The Storyville whores used to whisper it

To passing men. Jasmine.

“You want some jasmine honey?”

The trumpet players liked the sound,

called themselves jass men;

called their music by the same name.


Let me give it to you straight:

Sin is jasmine; its flowers smell

Like perfumed air blowing over snow,

While the root sends out vines twining

Like cables on the Golden Gate Bridge,

Straight strands bundled tight,

Shooting roots, creepers, hairy legged crawlers

Under my driveway.


My neighbor came to warn me about them a year ago.

Said, “You don’t realize what they’re doing.”

Told me to cut them down before they took over.

I told him I liked their smell.

Didn’t tell him to go to hell, like I wanted,

But I might as well have said it

The way he treated me after that,

Coming to my house to hack at the vines

Until he broke one sprinkler head,

Sending me into paroxysms of righteousness.

I told him: Stay on your side. Come over again,

And I’ll call the police.


Meanwhile, jasmine grew when I slept,

When I woke and worked, when I talked,

When I sat silent before the TV screen,

Until I saw my neighbor was right.

The vines had stretched their red fingers

Around the bougainvillea and camellias,

Around the sprinkler line, through the decking,

Climbed the downspout and into the crawlspace.


It took three days to clear out what I could find.

I will plant natives. But I know

The war isn’t over. When I am my neighbor’s age,

In my eighties, I will be pulling jasmine

Each time it surfaces, looking to tempt me

With too much scent, with the sweet phrase,

Do you want some jasmine tonight? Some sweet

Sweet jasmine?

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