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Pretty Monsters
by Lee Shane

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Pretty is as pretty does.
Wise folks know this is because
so much can seem gorgeous at quick glance,
but once considered reveals
more complicated circumstance.

The vaunted burning bush is one such “beauty”
that really is a serial killer, truly:
In southern New England from where I fled,
Each fall winged euonymus turns many fields red,
but everything else that used to live in them is dead.

The secret to its deadly success is how its roots toil,
unfolding in all directions a blanket under the soil.
No plant, no bulb, no tuber, no seed,
can break through the strangling roots of this weed.

And as it grows and the soil web dies,
forget about those edible fungi
that some of us prize,
they disappear along with ants, bees and flies,
and other critters of smaller size.

It’s poisonous to our native creatures that graze
so they only stick around through the invasion phase,
and eating what they always have while trying to survive,
they sadly help to hasten the ecosystem’s demise.

In fact, the only part eaten is the seeds
by birds fueling up for their migration needs,
and so the birds unwillingly help it expand
throughout this state and throughout the land.

Humans brought it here from far away,
and then decided we wanted it to stay.
We said, “it’s low maintenance,” “it’s no fuss,”
this euonymus alatus.

But now that we can see it’s a deadly pain,
A monster ravaging Maine’s natural terrain,
If we want other living species to remain
then these are monsters that must be slain.

So break out your bulldozers, your chainsaws and lops,
spot poison the bases while cutting off the tops.
Cut it down once, cut it down twice,
dig out the roots, and don’t be nice.
And when someone objects, and says, “but it’s pretty!”
just recite this little ditty. . .

and give them a chokeberry bush to plant.

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