Kinnikinnick – a poem by Sylvia Byrne Pollack


The low shrub you know as bearberry
also bears the castanet name kinnikinnick
scientific moniker of Arctostaphylos
uva-ursi    Beloved by bears and hummingbirds   
it thrives in bright sun and poor soil   
makes the best of things

Do not be confused by the fact it has
different names. Don’t you? 
Don’t you have multiple ways of being 
in the world depending on the day   the year 
who you’re with and where?

In the mishmash of thoughts   experiences   
hopes   regrets – all the stuff of “being human” 
we live not one life but many   have multiple 
transformations like instars of a Cecropia 
changing shape   colors   crawling   spinning
finally flying   We morph and what the world sees 
looks different

But how altered is what lies within? 
Some will say I’ve always been this way 
but others of us know we’ve been reworked
fibers unwound   restrung to play a different tune
rough edges painfully ground down 
glowing now with rich patina

Our facets   cracks and divots are unique
have their own inimitable splendor
kinnikinnick’s small pink 
vase-shaped summer flowers   
autumn’s scarlet berries

Sylvia Byrne Pollack’s poems appear in Floating Bridge Review, Crab Creek Review, The Stillwater Review and many others. She is a two-time Pushcart nominee, 2013 Mason’s Road Literary Awardee, 2019 Jack Straw Writer, 2021 Mineral School Resident. Her debut collection is Risking It (Red Mountain Press 2021.)

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