Arrow-arum, water purslane, and false
pimpernel are new to me now
that I live on a riverine tidal marsh.
These plants grow about or in the cove
where, out with the tide and in,
the common mummichog and banded
killifish swim. I imagine if I’ve seen a thing—
golden club, sweet flag, reed canary grass—
its name will spring to mind when
I want it to, but the deep truth is I enjoy
the luscious touch of common names
about the roof and floor, teeth edge
of my mouth—the salivate, sexy sensation—
my way of kissing the ring of English
for having crowned me English-speaking.
One evening last summer I spied the marsh
bellflower—dabs of blue amid chartreuse-
bright wild rice sprigs—two yards from
bursts of bur-marigold and rosy meadow rue,
and I’m still hunting for the uncommon
Hudson arrowhead, the cut-leaved
water horehound. However did a plant get hound
in its name? But I don’t want a pause for
etymological dreaming to halt the susurrate
and rattling runs of consonants, the shallow
and broad bellow of vowels, all that music
that, in trickles or rills or dips or blows,
trips the switch of this or that synapse:
the Wernicke and Broca areas of my
cerebral cortex flaring up like hydrogen
firestorms on the sun, my entire body
scintillate and quick with the gush-in,
flush-out, whisking blood.
from The Banquet: New & Selected Poems
GRAY JACOBIK is a widely-published, nationally-recognized American poet. A sought-after reader and mentor, she is an emerita professor of literature, a literary critic and painter, and a deeply committed advocate for the literary and visual arts.
Gray has been honored with numerous prestigious awards, including the William Meredith Award for Poetry for a collection entitled The Banquet: New and Selected Poems, in which Name Gourmand appears. She lives with her husband, Bruce Gregory, in Deep River, Connecticut.