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We trace, all morning, what we can find
in ditch and by laneside, in fields
and near rivers, and when it grows late

       lady's bedstraw traveler's-joy

we let down our skirts, roll up our sketches
and go back to the controlled light
of the orangery. Commanding a view

       moon-daisy wild geranium thyme

of placid grass, the ornamental canal,
we complete our small, still surfaces
of color. Darkening filament veins, shading

       wintergreen whitethorn flowering rush

quadruplets of petals, a fragile stem,
we rarely touch them. It is our duty
to see them infused with a usefulness

       bittersweet self-heal wedding wreath

beyond the merely decorative. The light
instructs us, we try to reveal their life
as if we alone could prove their existence.

     silverweed water forget-me-not

They will never be glimpsed in a bedside vase
or strewn among crumbs and spattered tea-things.
We leave them as we find them, open, whole,

       field bindweed mountain everlasting

in the place they sprang up from,
the place where they'll die.
While pressed between heavy leather binders

       mother's heart yellow archangel

high on a shelf in our husbands' studies,
our paintings wait like vivid children,
children who will never be born.

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Poet and playwright Jennifer O'Grady received her B.A. from Vassar College and her M.F.A. from the  Columbia University School of the Arts. Her poems have been published in journals including Harper's and The New Republic, collected in the volume White (Mid-List Press), and featured on The Writer's Almanac. Be sure to read the Society Nineteen interview with Jennifer about her play Charlotte's Letters, upcoming in the January 19 issue. Find out more about Jennifer and her work at her website hereGeography, Traces, and Water Journal reprinted from White and © Jennifer O'Grady;  special thanks to The Southern Review, where Geography first appeared.
by Jennifer O'Grady