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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, October 29, 2018.
About this Poem 

“When I wrote ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green,’ I had been thinking a lot about seeing and being seen, about presence and invisibility, and practicing taiji three- to five-times a week on a basketball court at a small park in my neighborhood. I would afterward walk around the park, looking around before heading home, and, having long focused on craft, I wanted to practice seeing better. So, some days I took a picture on the walk, and some days I wrote short poems when I got home, aiming for karumi, Bashō’s late aesthetic of lightness and transparency of language. The woman at the park and I saw each other regularly through the changing seasons and, as I look at this poem again, it seems possible that beyond the one practicing taiji or Kermit the Frog, I could be the woman in her green coat or even her dog moving along the fence. This poem is for Kathleen Driskell, whom I’ve known since 2003.”
—Debra Kang Dean

It’s Not Easy Being Green

Whatever her story is, today
and every day that I’m here,
she’s here in her long, quilted green coat,
 
her companion—a beagle?—
nose to the ground, its tail
a shimmy. Unlidded to
 
lidded trash can they go, and
all along the fence lining the stream,
looking, I think, for whatever
 
salvageable cast-offs can be found.
By all appearances, she doesn’t need to,
but who knows, maybe she does.
 
The day after the first snow, she’d stopped,
asked, What’s that you’re doing? and, to my answer,
Yes, she’d said, of course, taiji.
 
Today, as I turned southwest
into Fair Lady Works the Shuttles, in it
lost, there they were, close by, again,
 
her companion sniffing along the fence
at court’s edge, and she, standing by. I want
to believe by now that she and I have gone
 
beyond just being fair-weather friends
as, moving on without pause, we simply
smile, nod, say, Hello. Or don’t.

Copyright © 2018 by Debra Kang Dean. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 29, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Debra Kang Dean. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 29, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Debra Kang Dean

Debra Kang Dean

Debra Kang Dean’s most recent book is Totem: America (Tiger Bark Press, 2018).