An Earthy Etheree

Nash Prairie


all grass
wants cutting;
not every sedge
seeks out the sharpened
scythe. Seed-heavy, slender,
spread without restraint or care
they nod before the rising wind,
weaving and whispering deep-rooted 
wisdom – the heart of the prairie preserved.


Comments always are welcome.
For more information on the Etheree, a syllabic poem that, in its basic form, contains ten lines and a total of fifty-five syllables, please click here.

104 thoughts on “An Earthy Etheree

  1. This made me smile because not half an hour ago I was writing an etheree poem in my head about pear and apple blossom!
    Love yours

    1. It’s such a great form to work with. Now that you’ve published your first book, I think a collection of etherees with your original artwork would be just the ticket!

    1. Those are kind words, DM — thank you. I read your comment early this morning, and smiled at similarities I see between your work and some of mine: you construct buildings, and I occasionally manage to construct an etheree. Solid structure lies at the heart of both!

    1. I really enjoy those ‘nots.’ They seem somehow formal, and allow saying a good bit with very few words. The alliterations were even more fun to work with — and work it was, to move beyond simply slapping similar letters onto the beginning of words.

    1. No, and I’m not sure it would work without being somewhat awkward. In my early attempts, I only was syllable counting, but then I began finding ways to include internal rhyme and rhythm, which I enjoy. It might be a kick to try constructing an etheree that’s only one sentence: move over, Proust!

    1. That’s all right. I don’t like most HOAs. They’re filled with people who promote solar and wind power, but won’t let people put laundry on a clothesline. Contradictions, much?

      I’m glad you like the poem!

    1. There’s a reason I always read my poetry aloud while I’m working on it. Poetry, like music, is meant to be heard, not only read. There’s nothing wrong with just rearranging words on a page, like e.e. cummings, but those aren’t the poems that stick with us. I certainly didn’t reach “this is the forest primeval” level with this one, but it did give me pleasure, and I’m glad you experienced it that way, as well.

    1. As they say, every silver lining has its cloud! ~ or something like that. I’m certainly glad I’m not allergic to grasses; dealing with the ‘cedar fever’ produced by Ashe junipers is enough of a challenge.

    1. I have come to love prairies of every sort, so paying tribute to them seemed a good way to note the day. Fitting that tribute into an etheree was particularly fun.

  2. Let’s declare this Prairie Day or Meadow Day in honor of Nash Prairie. Beautiful photograph of the grass and the sky. And a welcome etheree for the wild grasses!

    1. I think that’s a splendid idea, Tom. We’d probably have all the other prairies nagging us, wanting their own days, but I’d be ok with that, too. I’d far rather have Nash Prairie Day than National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day — even though I’m fond of a good PB&J.

      I like the photo of the grasses against the sky; I’m glad you do, too.

    1. It is fun to see the shape of these poems on the page. Some people do what’s called a double-etheree. In that case, the form looks less tree-like and more like a vertically-posed butterfly. As for prairie grasses of all sorts, they always look good, whether showing the movement of the wind or posed against the sky.

    1. You’ve reminded me of an old saying: “Easy reading’s damned hard writing.” It’s often attributed to Hawthorne, but the history’s longer; the Quote Investigator offers a chronology of its use that’s fascinating. Whoever said it first, it’s true — and it delights me that you find the form an easy read!

    1. It is an interesting form, and great fun to work with. I sometimes think of etherees as akin to crossword puzzles, with one difference. In a crossword, the ‘right’ answer has been determined. In an etheree, finding the right words and arranging them in a pleasing manner is the challenge.

    1. You could. The question is, should you? I’ve always appreciated the wisdom of “just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it.” That can cover a whole lot of the waterfront, from shoulder surgery to consuming that entire pint of gelato in one sitting.

    1. I’m not sure I could outdo myself in this case. This turned out so perfectly it pleases even me: no niggling over this word or that! I’m so glad you enjoyed it, and I think your suggestion of a repost down the road is a good one. I’m with you on well-done alliteration; it can add a real lilt to writing.

    1. You’re more than welcome. I purposely left ‘earth day’ out of the title, since appreciation for the prairies and other parts of our world should be an everyday experience.

  3. Nice, and oh so true. I have a little ornamental grass in my yard. The last guy we hired to help with the landscaping wanted them all cut down. Needless to say he’s not working for us any more.

    1. I hate when that happens. A friend had all the seaside goldenrod pulled from her landscape by lawn care workers who considered it a weed; at a local marina, the beautiful pink Gulf Muhly was cut back before its plumes could show off, because the plumes themselves were considered ‘messy.’ There’s a lot of educating to be done even among ‘lawn care’ specialists.

    1. ‘Earth Day’ as a phrase risks being a bit generic. Focusing on one part of the earth seemed more useful; since I love the prairies, they were an obvious choice. I’m glad you enjoyed the tribute, John.

    1. Like devotees of all sorts, I once made pilgrimage to Etheree’s home town. I’d intended to visit her grave, but was run out of the cemetery by some dogs. Some day I’ll make another visit, and publish the etheree I wrote for Etheree, as well as some of the fascinating details of her life. I’m pleased you enjoyed this one.

    1. Indeed. Of course, growth takes patience, and patience is one of those qualities that seems in short supply these days. Perhaps if we could encourage the growth of patience, other parts of our world might have a better chance to reach maturity.

    1. That’s exactly what I’d hoped to accomplish, Ann: letting the prairies fill up the words. I’m glad you experienced it that way. Nature can do that with our lives, too — if only we allow it.

  4. I scrolled too quickly and missed the caption below the picture. But as I read your words I guessed the Nash Prairie and sure enough, there it was. Of course it could apply to so many places that will hopefully remain unscythed. I bet it took a bunch of moments to put just the right words and syllables together to create that poetic pyramid.

    1. It’s true that I could have used a photo from any prairie I’ve visited, but I’ve been most recently to Nash. Even our coastal prairies offer nice grass-and-sky opportunities, but most people associate ‘prairie’ with a different sort of grassland.

      As for constructing an etheree, your hunch is right. With this one, it started when the first phrase — “not all grass wants cutting” — came to me in just that form. Then, it was only a matter of finding the rest of the poem. The amount of tinkering was substantial.

    1. Building up beats tearing down every time — unless, of course, what’s building up are trash piles or anger. But wild grasses and flowers and creatures? Let’em grow!

  5. Linda, you had me at “not all grass wants cutting.” It makes me think of land preservation. I keep seeing local officials praising themselves for keeping some land development-free, but the truth is they continue to “undo” Mother Nature more often than not no matter who is in charge. Here’s to all the land that has been allowed to “roam” free.

    1. Of all the ‘development’ that drives me crazy, building new commercial properties ‘on spec’ is the worst. The number of empty strip malls and commercial centers sitting around in my area is disheartening at best. Even with all the changes wrought by policies during the pandemic, building continued. I’ve read that ‘spec suites’ in commercial buildings are becoming more popular, and one way to increase leasing without expanding outward. Everything helps.

  6. I see you haven’t lost your touch in penning beautiful Etherees, Linda! Well done, my friend. And you’re, of course, right — not every grass should be cut!

    1. I’m sure there are some fourteen-year-old kids who’d love for mowing to be ended: that is, if kids still mow lawns. That may have changed, too. In any event, the preservation of our grasslands — and water, and farmland, and forests, and wetlands — is so important. Having a day to remind ourselves of that is a good thing.

    1. Indeed they are. Beauty and utility is a fine combination, whether you’re designing a house or appreciating how nature’s arranged her ‘house.’ It’s such a pleasure to experience, whatever sort of prairie we have available!

    1. You’ve out-alliterated me! I’m glad you enjoyed it, Wally. Sometimes, art does as well as science when it comes to communicating nature’s beauty and importance.

    1. Some people do double etherees, which can look like an hour glass or a butterfly, depending on the viewer. I’m fond of the tree shape myself. I’ve done a couple at Christmas, and had great fun with them.

      Once I moved away from simple syllable counting and began learning how to wrap phrases and sentence from line to line, I really began to enjoy the form. A good one has a sense of moving toward completion: probably part of the calming influence you noted.

  7. Wowee. Your first lines – hook line and sinker – got me. And I took it metaphorically as well as literally. I don’t want/need to be mowed down. Let me be my crazy wacky writer self!

    1. I love that! — that you took it metaphorically, as well. You’ve reminded me of a bit of writing advice I took from Rodney Crowell, and which I’ve rephrased as “Don’t put Banjo on a leash.” Listen to his introduction to one of his songs here, and it will all make sense! There’s no predicting where the best songs, or the best stories, will come from!

    1. That’s one reason I always read poetry aloud — mine, or anyone else’s. Getting the sound right, or appreciating the sounds others have created, is part of the enjoyment.

  8. I love the transition from S to W sounds. The former speak to feelings of energy and motion, and the latter to feeling grounded. I’m not sure why I have these responses to these letters but it seems fitting that the S’s are at the top of etheree and W’s at its foundation

    1. Isn’t it fun to observe our own reactions to art: music, poetry, painting? Sometimes, there’s no explanation for the response that comes easily to mind, but there’s no denying it. One reason I enjoy blogging is the opportunity to see how others respond to what I’ve posted: those responses can be as varied as the people themselves.

    1. If only more people could appreciate that truth. I visited Galveston’s Broadway cemeteries yesterday for a short time; some of the seven allow the flowers and grasses to grow until the seeds have formed, while others keep things ‘tidy’ the whole year. The difference is remarkable.

  9. Wonderfully crafted! This poem takes me back to the grasslands of eastern Montana. While much of the land is sown with crops, there are still remnants of the historical prairie.

    1. The fact that this evoked your prairies for you pleases me no end. There’s nothing quite like a prairie. I’ve always thought that the reason both offshore sailing and prairies appeal to me is the horizon; both allow for a larger view of our world.

  10. Love this poem Linda. Made me think of my childhood on Camas Prairie in Idaho.

    1. Was your Camas prairie named for the flowers of the same name? I remember one of my friends in Montana posting images of them. I’ve never seen them myself, but I’ll bet they’re beautiful. I found this nice article about them. With or without Camas flowers, I’m glad this reminded you of your prairie.

    1. Thanks, Jet. Grasslands of all sorts — whether our coastal prairies or the African savannas you share — all need advocacy and care. Inviting people to ponder their importance is a first step, and even a poem can do that.

  11. Beautiful poem, Linda. It made me want to find a comfortable place to sit and plop down in the middle of the prairie while the wind sang through the grass. Reminded me of my post today where Hathor, the cow goddess, used a sistrum (an ancient Egyptian musical instrument that sound like the wind blowing through the papyrus) to hide the baby Horus from his wicked uncle, Seth.

    1. Hmmm… that sounds like a different hiding-the-baby story I learned from some book when I was a kid. I think his name was Moses. The sistrum’s interesting, too. When I looked it up, of course the first thing that came to mind were the seed-covered gourds in Liberia that were used as percussion instruments. All we got in grade school were wood blocks!

      1. Right. Grin. And before Moses, Sargon of Mesopotamia was placed in a reed basket and left to float down the river. Why leave a baby on a doorstep?
        I think my musical talents relegated me to the blocks. Or maybe it was the triangle. I don’t remember the gourds but I do remember a simple stinged instrument that made gorgeous sounds.

          1. You’re right, Linda. I remember one warm evening hearing gentle, lovely music coming through our screen door and checking it out. It was the thumb piano. Thanks.

            1. Very interesting, Linda, I didn’t have time for the whole video but the introduction certainly caught my attention. I had no idea that the banjo came from Africa. It makes sense, however.

    1. GP, my first hunch was a species of tamarisk: our salt cedar. That’s what my plant ID app confirmed, too. Those pink flowers are a giveaway. Interestingly enough, the plant is invasive here; I think it would be native in Mary Lou’s area, too, although I suppose it could have been introduced.

    1. It took years for me to realize that grasses are as beautiful as flowers. Once I started looking more closely at their appearance, I became interested in their life cycle, their preferred environments, and so on. After that, it was only a short hop over to prairies-as-environment, and I started planning vacation trips to places many (most?) people drive through on their way to somewhere else, saying “There’s nothing to see here” as they do. How wrong they are!

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