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Root Growth
Joan Wiese Johannes


I message my sister and tell her I don’t try
to start seedlings anymore since they always die
when I take them outside, and she replies,
“Every day look at them and jostle them,
brush your hand over them to give them
the sense of being outside in the wind.
It encourages root growth.
Eventually you can open a window
so they experience real air.
Then they get to go outside for an hour or two.
Eventually, you can set them free and let them grow.”

My sister has raised two delightful children.
Every day she looked at them and jostled them,
brushed her hand over them to give them
the sense of being outside in the wind.
It encouraged root growth.
Eventually she opened a window
so they experienced real air.
Then they got to go outside for an hour or two.
Eventually she set them free and let them grow.

Now I am sheltering in place far from them.
Every day I look at them and jostle memories,
brush my hand over photos
to give myself the sense
of being outside in the wind.
It encourages root growth.
Eventually I can open a window
and experience real air.
Then I will go outside for an hour or two.
Eventually, I will be free and will have grown.

This poem first appeared in LOCKDOWN 2020: Poetry and prose from around
the world on living in isolation and surviving the coronavirus.
Compiled by Robin Barratt.)
Used here with permission.


Joan Wiese Johannes is retired from a rewarding and challenging career as an English teacher. The author of several poetry collections, she also composes music for Native American-style flute and includes it with her poetry readings. Joan believes that Thornton Wilder was right when he wrote that "only poets and saints truly appreciate life while they are living it." Hardly a saint, Joan appreciates the life she shares with her poet/artist husband, Jeffrey, in Port Edwards, Wisconsin. Learn more about her at



Post New Comment:
A bright light on this dark day. Thank you, Joan. ~Doris Bezio
Posted 02/24/2021 02:27 PM
Kay N. Sanders:
This is lovely, Joan.
Posted 02/18/2021 08:14 AM
Oh this is really good. And timely for me as I plan to start seedlings for the first time ever. I'll remember this advice.
Posted 02/18/2021 07:38 AM
Lori Levy:
Love how this poem develops and flows.
Posted 02/17/2021 11:21 PM
Maryann Hurtt:
Such a fine poem to read on a winter pandemic day..,thank you, Joan!
Posted 02/17/2021 08:32 PM
This is so perfect for our current times, Joan! Thank you!
Posted 02/17/2021 04:36 PM
Marvelous. A poem of hope and human spirit.
Posted 02/17/2021 01:00 PM
Your poem unfolds like billows of silk floating in the wind. I love the repetition with slight changes in perspective. I felt the air move in waves as I read it. So lovely....
Posted 02/17/2021 12:06 PM
Janet Leahy:
Love the phrase "jostle memories" it is perfect for what helps us get through this time. Thanks Joan.
Posted 02/17/2021 12:02 PM
Wilda Morris:
A wonderful poem - I didn't expect it to morph into a pandemic poem, but it did so in a marvelous way!
Posted 02/17/2021 11:55 AM
I love this!!
Posted 02/17/2021 09:59 AM
Interesting poem, each stanza like a blessing.
Posted 02/17/2021 09:32 AM
Well crafted, a real pleasure.
Posted 02/17/2021 09:21 AM
This is a truly thoughtful and lovely poem It spoke to myself on so many levels.
Posted 02/17/2021 09:04 AM
I just adored it! It spoke to me. Thank you.
Posted 02/17/2021 08:17 AM
Beautiful, Joan. It reminds me of "A Mother's Roots" by Marian Wright Edelman. Have you read it?
Posted 02/17/2021 07:37 AM

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