Guest Poem by Richard Schiffman

Richard Schiffman is an environmental reporter, poet and author of two biographies based in New York City. In addition to GreenPrints, his poems have appeared on the BBC and on NPR as well as in the Alaska Quarterly, the New Ohio Review and the New York Times, Writer’s Almanac, This American Life in Poetry, Verse Daily and other publications. His first poetry collection ‘What the Dust Doesn't Know’ was published in 2017 by Salmon Poetry. This poem is from Acumen 108.

The Wisdom of Seeds

You don’t seed a cloud with another cloud,
but with bone dry particles of dust.

Sahara dust blown to the Amazon
makes the mineral-poor soils fertile.

The Amazon seeds its own rains which blown
off course make the Sertão desert bloom.

Hopelessly off course on his voyage to the spice rich Indies
America discovered Columbus – a tragic mistake.

The conquistadors who followed stole the gold
but the seeds stowed carelessly in the cargo bay moldered.

A farmer hoards last year’s seed stock –
it is the gold that he’ll invest in future furrows.

Some investments don’t pan out, like a field of beans
planted before a mostly rainless summer.

The farmer, expecting bushels,
reaped a baby-food jar of desiccated beans

which, far from disdaining, he saved and sowed
the next year and the next year and the next

producing a heap of hardship-hardened beans
with which to seed the dry years ahead.