In the leafless trees whose names I don’t know, woodpeckers are preying
boisterously. I can’t find them. I’m not from a people who have done this,
at least recently, but I’m trying to get to know the plants— even
downloaded an app. I jam a stem of toothy florets into frame,
shoot. Calico aster, the screen tells me. Calico aster, I tell my toddler.
He digs in the dying stems, tries to pull out the roots. He’s a child
I find often opening the cabinet beneath the sink, examining the pipes,
wanting to understand where everything comes from and also
where it goes. Last week, I held him, like a seed, in my lap and we cleaved
the hemp dogbane pods, fluff puffing out like a lamb, scattering
by the cold steam of our breath. Only today, I learned the whole plant
is poisonous, having no business near the lips of a two-year old.
When he was new, everyone wanted to make a metaphor for my body,
compare it to kitchen appliances or tell me how birth was like writing
a poem. But I felt just like a body: aching, swollen, deflated. He slept
only in my arms, if I paced all night the thin hall that was our living room.
I try to still my mind before the dying goldenrod, to promise her
no more metaphor, but instead remember my yellow scarf
that day in Central Park, my friend surprised at how uncharacteristically
careful I was, covering my body while nursing. How I had no words
to say that I had to keep some piece of me for myself for once.
The pond puffs at us with fishy breath and the flowers drop some seed
with disdain. I try and open my heart to the earth like a cabinet,
but the earth doesn’t want any more cabinets. A place made of itself,
that it’s expected to fit into. I press my ear to the leaves. She’s quiet.
Yes, yes, I tell the stalks. It’s okay if there are things
you don’t want to share.