Before today everything I have planted has died. After today that may still be true. Once I planted tomatoes with my dad where the roses used to be. I also wrote “tomatoes” on a popsicle stick. Stuck in the ground nearby. In case we forgot what we’d done there, I guess.
At the park down the street, a hollow industrial plant sprouted from the rough hill, already rusted. We kids swung the rebar, landed mostly on our feet. Nothing grew around the the abandoned foundation. Like a rose, it poisons the soil beneath it selfishly. Or to not be forgotten. Or that’s not an opposite.
Often trendy photographing teenagers snapped us running across the hulking carcass. For the juxtaposition we served up. Embodying as we once did, all the possibilities the dead thing did not have before it.
When we moved in, the roses were already there. Mom thought they were trite. Though some were orange and tinged with pink, like smushed together starbursts. And some were redder and deeper than the gouge I got seven stitches for.
She pulled them up and out. Two strong gloved hands around the base. Roots rip satisfyingly.
Nothing grew there for years. Including the tomatoes, which shrank as if under fire, and yellowed, despite the water, despite the gentle sun.
Repercussions come at the strangest times. You could say.
Or you could ask: What kind of wiggle makes a dead thing boogie. Or: if a ghost bone makes a mark where it lies on the dirt, and you dig past it, does the bone not ghost. Or: do nurse logs know what kind of joy their bodies bring. Do they stretch out on their backs like happy dogs. Or: do nurse logs really bring joy. Or: does rust love the unused for the home or the loneliness of it all. Or: If I am born within a unliving narrative, am I too dying. How does one choose to sapling.
Or you could ask: But what happened to the popsicle stick that said “tomatoes”?
To which I could tell you: I forgot about it. The earth ate it like a live thing.
I could also tell you my houseplant died last month. It put up a good fight. Three died last year a little more quietly, and even more quietly the year before that and before that and before that, etc..
Or I could say: The marigolds I just planted from seed are two inches tall and arch toward the windows, hungry with the living. I could not tell you what has changed.
I could say: Today I played in the junkyard again. I was the brightest thing there, with nobody watching. I juxtaposed. I spread all 10 fingers just above my head. I reigned the dead earth. Rust glittering the palms. Spoke my name out loud and made it so.
Kate Guenther is a foosball shark and houseplant enthusiast living in Brooklyn. She reads poetry submissions for The Atlas Review and was on NYU slam team when they won the national championship in 2012, and again in 2014 when they did not. You can find her in Potluck, Rootstalk, NYSAI and at her internet home katewguenther.com.