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  • Writer's pictureNora Curry

Poem of the Week: Questions to a Grasshopper

April is a bounteous month, what with National Poetry Month, National Library Week, and now... Earth Day! Janisse Ray is best known for her two-part memoir Ecology of a Cracker Childhood and Wild Card Quilt, as well as her activist focus on the seed revolution and local food. Ray's interest in the environment and the connection between people, nature, and place is also reflected in her poetry, a set of work that grows with this month's publication of Red Lanterns.

In "Questions to a Grasshopper," from Ray's previous book of poems, A House of Branches, Ray uses her questions to imply the freedom amongst nature and its creatures that the structures of our society perhaps prevent us from enjoying. Is it better to be a grasshopper than a human? Consider Ray's poem below and perhaps use this Earth Day as an opportunity to explore this naturalist writer and activist's work further.

Questions to a Grasshopper

Grasshopper, do you have a husband

waiting for you at home, under some sumac

roof? Or a son who yet needs you?

In the grasshopper bank, is your account

low? Is the Times waiting on an article

that you must squeak up out of your armored

head and from what you have deciphered

with those waving wands?

Is the rent due on your leaf, and do you

have to pay somebody for the water that falls free

from the sky? To whom do you owe your food?

Are you paying for grasshopper roads and

grasshopper schools and grasshopper hospitals

and grasshopper police and some kind of insect

library filled with wondrous leafy scrolls?

Do you have a president? Are you asked

to fight, to kill your own? Must you pay for it?

Or are you free, as you seem, to go

bursting through the stalks of dry grasses,

among strawberry leaves and yarrow,

curious and flippant, without direction,

unwary, obligated to nothing?

- Janisse Ray

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