© 2023 by MCLA Spires. 

Wormwood

May 1, 2018

Her arm delves into warm May soil,

Wriggles like the worms

Her grandfather cleaved

With the whites of his fingernails

Then punctured and threw

Into a sea of emerald lily pads.

 

She rolls a cornflower seed around like

a thimble between her thumb and pointer finger.

Press.

Cover.

Water.

Enjoy.

Her mother once said these flowers had

A “grown-up” smell to them.

She never understood what that meant.

 

Grown men ask her when she will have children.

How many?

What will you teach them?

Did you know your body was never yours to begin with?

Your life was signed over to someone else the day you turned one,

Wore that strapless dress to that middle school dance,

Spoke about a future without a husband and white picket fence.

If you had a little girl, what would you tell her about love?

About the world?

About her choices and how

The outcomes may never be what she really wants?

 

She gardens and pretends the flowers will change the world,

Hopes people will accept that buds are the only things

She will ever nurture from seed to something beautiful.  

Her ovaries are hostile, not literally,

But in a sense that they have poisoned her mind and

The thought of life coming from a place within herself

She has not yet discovered is worse than

The thought of drowning.

 

Her grandfather was a good man,

Taught her all the things he taught her brothers,

Asked her about adventures and the thought of a future

Without family Christmas cards and a nursery in that

Underwater castle they talked so much about.

 

When he died, she didn’t think twice about that worm,

Until years later she realized they were two in the same.

That goddamn worm.

Split.

Hooked.

Sunk.

Swallowed.

Never really in charge of itself because there were always hands

With calloused palms and wide, square fingertips stretching,

Squishing a being that didn’t belong to them.    

 

She would always be at the hands of men with their hooks ready,

Her body theirs not by right but by tradition.

Her worth whittled down to what she can produce,

What award-winning bass she can bring to the dinner table.

 

No, she will not have children.

And yes she can change her mind without the input

From fifty-year-olds named Richard.

Because although she loves the dirt,

She is sick and tired of living in it,

Waiting for that greedy fucking hand

To find her in the calm darkness.

 

She waters her garden every morning,

Weeds it in the afternoons,

And imagines a future full of

Daffodils and hydrangeas,

And a bouquet of other things

That she hasn’t quite figured out yet.

But it’s her goddamn bouquet.

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