Pisgah by Audrey Lendvay
 

The Willful

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—

Roma tomatoes,

pickling cukes,

pumpkins—

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,

and grows.

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,

through fire.

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.