I never grew Virginia creeper,
this twining shiny vine rapidly
unfurling its five-leafed bouquet,
yet it crept into my garden, stealthily
wrapping its strong tendrils round
stems and bushes and trees
in lusty demanding embrace,
attaching onto the house foundation,
embedding into cement and wood.

I yanked at the growth, and long
strands came forth, breaking off
at the base. I pulled and pulled
yet realized I could never reach
deep roots, and after retreating
it would revive and return
the way mania steals back in,
creeps up, and takes over my son.

A retired educator, Laura Altshul tutors and serves on the boards of nonprofits providing educational and arts experiences for New Haven children whose families don’t ordinarily have access to these opportunities. Her two books of poetry are Searching for the Northern Lights and Bodies Passing; a third book, Looking Out, is forthcoming. She and her husband Victor Altshul co-lead the New Haven chapter of the Connecticut Poetry Society.

About the Poem

“Mental illness infects not only the patient but also the patient’s family, and it is not readily controllable, if at all. Writing about it in poetic form is challenging; I chose to use a metaphorical approach.”

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2 thoughts on “Invasive”

  1. Powerful, piercing, haunting poem. I’ve already returned to it several times. Interestingly, I found myself compelled to learn more about the plant. Such a variety of colors and manifestations on the many images I viewed.

    This sentence on Wikipedia stood out. “This plant should be trimmed regularly to keep it from growing into areas where it is not wanted.” I thought about gardeners…and mental health professionals…and the importance of care and maintenance.

    Laura, I’ve printed your poem and added it to my wall screen of favorites.

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