The Lawn Grass Elf Poem by Denis Mair

The Lawn Grass Elf

Rating: 5.0

It was during my Walkman summer
I learned my lesson not to walk home late
To my low-rent street
While immersed in a violin concerto…
Suddenly two punks pulled a knife and gave me
A pretty heavy frisson of mortality.
After that I saved my Walkman
For walking near the park of Roses.
The landscaped and trellised yards
With rock-edged beds of flowers
Breathed to me the secret wishes of each family.
That was the summer I saw the lawn-grass elf.
It appeared in my mind's eye, an adolescent wearing a crew-cut,
Its hair was a shade of green
Somewhere between khaki and chlorophyll,
It had a cajoling voice, as if seeking a playmate.
In its voice I heard the snarl of lawn mowers in the afternoon
Mixed with whoosh of training jets overhead.
Its smooth skin was dotted with impetigo, which it kept scratching.
I got a sense of nastiness, a petulant temper,
But over the lawn-grass elf were two maple trees;
They were singing softly with their leaves.
Those maple nursemaids might soften the boy, if there were time.

The summer after that, I saw the cornfield elf.
That was after some sad family troubles
Made me stumble in graduate school.
A desperate fantasy got lodged in my head:
I would disappear from Columbus,
I would build myself a lean-to right next to a cornfield
Somewhere off Evening Star Road.
I would take three books—deep, classical books,
To the rustling of leaves I would delve into those books.
I don't know why my idyll was so lowly.
Why didn't I fantasize a perch in the Rockies?
I am a Stark County boy after all.
But I never made it to that lean-to by the cornfield.
I lived with a houseful of undergraduates;
I did my best to finish out the year.
My housemates cheered me up at beerhalls
Where corn-fed frat boys ordered beer in buckets
And trashed the place on football Saturdays.
One weekend I drove up North to see my Dad.
I pulled off the road in Holmes County
And skirted a cornfield beside a woodlot;
That's when I saw the cornfield elf.
He was bigger than an elf, more like a Viking
With a barrel chest, a paunch, and golden beard
From which beer was dribbling endlessly.
His features were hearty and welcoming,
His hair gleamed around his face like a corolla,
His hat was an arrangement of sheaths and tassels,
But he had irradiated eyes.
He had been sitting in a tractor
Which was built with a closed-in cab
In which he often watched TV.
Because our encounter brought him to a sudden stop,
His hands reached to his belt buckle.
Patting himself to ease the painful borborygmus
From the pesticide sloshing
In the groundwater of his vitals.

Two months later, on a walk with no destination
I spotted a little elf in a vacant lot, barely a glimpse
Where broken green bottles
Lay among brambles near a scrubby ditch.

This poem mentions the "whoosh of training jets." This refers to the sound of fighter jets from Dayton Air Force Base that sometimes flew over my childhood home in Ohio. The poem recalls a stressful time while I was in graduate school. I used to find solace in Nature, and due to my active imagination, I would even see presences in my mind's eye. That's why I remembered the maple trees of my childhood as nursemaids. I also sensed disturbing presences in Nature, which were perhaps projections of my own own disturbed state of mind. Those disturbing presences diminished over time and finally disappeared... which was probably a sign of my recovery.
Margaret O Driscoll 26 February 2016

Very interesting read, the elves appeared in times of stress, you paint pictures with your words

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Sophy Chen 11 September 2015

Dear my great peot and translator Denis Mair, I met you in Guangzhou at Poetry and People at the last day of 2014.I took some of your picture from the stage when you were reading the poems and put them on my weixin and so many Chinese poets said regrads to you. The peot is Yi Sha.But i could not find a chance to spaek with you. It is a pity for me and i wish the next time we can meet in one poetry festival in China A month ago i saw your picture put by Yi Sha from Qinghai Lake Poetry Festival, and in the picture, you are sitting on ground and listening so seriously. Sophy Chen China A nice poem with a very good imagination!

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Denis Mair 11 September 2015

Hello Sophy, I think I remember seeing you in Guangzhou. Wish I had gotten a chance to chat with you then. I will be in Guangzhou for a meeting in November. Denis Mair

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Valsa George 06 September 2015

Your encounter with the elves seem so real! You have given flesh and blood to these eerie characters by your imagination! I really like your cornfield elf with 'his hair gleaming around his face like a corolla and his hat an arrangement of sheaths'! Great imagination!

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Denis Mair 07 September 2015

Thanks for bringing YOUR vivid imagination to my poem. The flesh and blood of these eerie characters was derived from my psychological predicament at the time. I could never stop using my imagination, even in a time of stress and strain, but I was relieved when those figments of imagination became less vivid. The last elf was only a streak of color, seen from the corner of my eye, which was a sign that my inner wound was healing. This whole poem is filled with imagery from my boyhood. Our front yard had two maple trees, and I grew up next door to a farm that grew corn. I used to look up and see jets flying overhead from Dayton Air Force Base, where pilots were trained.

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