by Nayra McMahan
The garden in my backyard is dead.
I planted it in a spring long past,
dug my small hands into the rainy earth
and poked holes small enough for my seeds—
to find comfortable.
I spent hours planting,
kneeling before the boundary
I’d created between grass and fresh earth
until it felt something like home.
Summer never brought me the growth
I was seeking, though. An unforgiving sun
fried the tomatoes before they were green;
the pumpkins and cucumbers never even sprouted.
Weeds, teeming with barbed seeds,
took root in the earth that I had worked in.
No gloves could keep my hands safe.
I let my hands bleed, dripping life
into the soil.
Now, relentless yellow Florida grass
clumps where the tall weeds aren’t.
It settles its roots into the home I made,
inserts itself where it was not welcome,
Grows, despite it all. Despite the weeds above it
taking the sun, even when they’re dead
and dry and browning, selfish corpses.
Florida grass doesn’t worry about its yellow.
It doesn’t care that it’s splotchy and rough
on bare feet. It fights for sunlight.
I want dirt under my nails again. I want grit and bitter yellow
in my blood,
the strength to have roots that live through frost,
Roots that find comfort in my beating, beautiful Florida sun
and grow new green leaves
as soon as they burst up,
stubborn and singing,
through the dirt.