When our new park enticed me to a walk
I saw a dandelion on the trail.
Its yellow bloom hung on its broken stalk
And it appeared to call me with a wail.

Was it a she, or rather she a he?
I was bemused: can flowers have a sex?
Should I retrieve the thing or let it be?
I must admit, these questions did perplex.

Do plants feel really pain when they are hurt?
Do they possess emotions, like a man?
Or are they really rather quite inert?
And had so been forever in God’s plan?

A scientist may think he knows it all,
But I—these questions make me feel so small.



Now, having wondered all these abstruse things,
There’s yet one other baffling mystery.
And here the question takes on arcane wings,
As it approaches runic history:

Can plants and trees with man communicate,
Or even with each other, think or plan?
Would they use waves with which to emanate
The words and feelings we as humans can?

They grant us splendor, oxygen we need;
They gladly give us happiness, content.
They ever help us out in thought and deed
And bless us with their fresh and outdoor scent.

Would it not be beyond appropriate
For us to thank them and reciprocate?



Leo Zoutewelle was born in 1935 in The Netherlands and was raised there until at age twenty he emigrated to the United States. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Davidson College, in North Carolina, and a Masters in Business Administration from the Darden School in the University of Virginia. In 1977, he went into business for himself in the field of land surveying, which he maintained until 2012, when he retired. Since then, he has written an autobiography and two novels (unpublished).

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6 Responses

  1. Sathyanarayana

    These poems remind me of great Telugu poems with the title PUSHPA VILAPAM(the wails of flowers) by famous poet and lyricist Karunasri (1912-1992). When the poet tries to pluck a flower, the flower wails and goes into a long harangue on flower-human relation. These poems had such immense influence on Telugu people, many women in those days stopped plucking flowers and wearing them in braids.

  2. Leo Zoutewelle

    Thanks for commenting. I must admit and regret total ignorance of poet Karunasri. Sorry!

    • James A. Tweedie

      Leo, I am enjoying your poetry, including this pair of sonnets which tell a good story drawn from your walk in the park along with sharing some of the philosophical musings it generated.

      There are, however, a number of small things that, if addressed, would make the poems even more successful.

      First, as a general rule, the further poetry strays from common speech the less effective it will be. Sometimes, in trying to maintain the rhythm and rhyme of the poem, we bend the normal rules of syntax/word order. Take, for example, “these questions did perplex,” “do plants feel really pain?” “and had been so framed in God’s plans,” and, “they ever help us out,” The phrasing seems awkward simply because we don’t talk like that in ordinary conversation. Writing in this way is often justified by referring to it as “poetic license,” but there is really no excuse for it since it can be avoided by taking a bit more time to work and rework each line until it flows more smoothly.

      Verb tense should also be consistent. After three lines of present tense the phrase “and had so been forever…” introduces me into an alternate verb tense that is so convoluted I can’t even parse it.

      Similarly, the phrase, “They gladly give us happiness, content.” How do we know they are doing this “gladly?” Would “freely” be a better word? And (grammatically speaking) how do you give “content?”

      Word juxtapositions are also tricky. Take “arcane wings” and “runic history.” These should either make plain sense (which neither does) or pair two unexpected images to create a third. Even though the image of a question “taking . . . wings” is hard to swallow, the insertion of the word “arcane” reflects the sense of mystery you are trying to convey. For me, at least, this works. The phrase, “runic history,” however, is less successful, since I have no idea what either Viking script or history in general has to do with “questions taking arcane wings.” To use your own word, I find this “baffling.”

      As I said, on one level the poems are a success. But there are ways to make them even better. I would offer an example, but I have to dash off for a meeting. All the best. And thank you for the poems.

  3. Leo Zoutewelle

    Hi James, thank you so much for your comments. Obviously there was much to learn in them and, indeed, I did! Thanks again.

  4. Sally Cook

    Dear Leo Zoutewelle —

    This subject is well worth consideration. There are two aspects to your poem – one deals with the world of poetic language and the very fine and inquiring idea of communication between man and plants.
    I would ask if you have read “The Secret Life Of Plants?” If not, I am sure you will find a lot in it to interest you.

    Mr. Tweedie made several valid points; I won’t duplicate those here, but just add my take on a few instances in which, if you were to make revisions, would greatly improve this thoughtful poem.

    First,,line 9 –“Do plants feel really pain when they are hurt?” is awkward and grammatically incorrect, and you must find a better way to ask that question, keeping in mind that you again use the word “really” in line 11. This entire section needs to be re-worked.

    Please always keep in mind that you must respect your own work more than anyone else respects it. Mistakes are always lurki8ng, waiting to be made; be on the lookout for them.
    I would like to suggest, if you have not already done so, that you read some of another Leo’s work – the work of Leo Yankevich. We can all learn from him.

    Hope to see more of your poems in future.

    • Leo Zoutewelle

      Dear Sally,
      I was glad when I saw that you had left a comment. I find yours very helpful.
      I had, indeed, already found and studied some of Leo Yankevich’s work. I will keep trying! Thank you so much!


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