This poem was published in the UK literary magazine Small Leaf in 2021.

gardening is a practice in compassion
ripping up weeds is my responsibility
alone. I learn this young
small hands swimming in patchwork gloves
as my mother and I care for a home
we are strangers in

she looks to me, hands on bent knees
a pile of loose dirt and dead plants between us
“you have to take the bitter with the sweet,” she says


she does not mean the wild strawberries
that stain my fingers
red and my mouth
there is summer at our house
and there is winter

I crush red berries in my palm
let juice fill the cracks in my skin
I do not know of autumn and spring


grass-stained knees
sweet dirt in my mouth
tastes like my strawberries
sooty soles blister on the pavement
from chasing the dog
I named


the dog is dead
the skies are alive with snow
and the fruit is canned in thick syrup

the gas fireplace teases a warmth I know
nothing about


I am a child of spring
tending to the family garden and whistling to the trees—
“i’m home”


winter is a house that once was shared
its flesh pitted, the sides scraped hollow
seeds discarded in the bin

summer is a garden where I play make-believe
pulped fruit blistering and splitting in the heat
the smell of rot is still one of death
even if it’s sweet


I am bitter
wild strawberries do not belong to me.
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