Cultivation

Why do our bodies
make things they do not need?

Seeds from a fast food kids’ meal
in a backyard whiskey barrel
make juicy little red globes
on the vine.

Replication is supposed to be
a highly regulated routine,
a pageant of proteins
and cytoskeletal elements and nucleic acids
making one cell into two into four,
keeping us going
in spite of everything that could go wrong,
does go wrong.

Peppery fuchsia root bulbs
pushing through the dirt
like no one could stop them
even in the blistering heat.

Alabama kids fresh out of school,
no sunscreen, no shoes.
My sister rears back and chucks the softball.
My brother swings the metal bat
and whacks me right in the eye.
I don’t even remember which one.

A year’s worth of radiation in five minutes
to say no confirmed concussion.
My summer-long black eye guaranteeing
my mother dirty looks at the Piggly Wiggly.

The radiologist should have known
how persistent the seed was that he had pushed
into the soft earth of my brain.
Did he know he had such a green thumb?
Electromagnetic nourishment
for the kernel forming, sprouting, digging in,
stubborn like nothing else in my body.

Ten years on,
the surgeons harvest a fistful
of ripe, unruly cells from my brainstem.
They can’t even get all of it.
It’s buried too deep,
roots twisted around my cranial nerves.
The next fall,
I measure the width between my pupils
to buy cheap glasses,
a centimeter more than what was scraped off my cerebellum.

Later that week,
I shell purple hull peas
from a forgotten raised bed,
pods burnt out husks by now,
crisped in the southern sun.
They still grew anyway,
neglected as they were.
I save the seeds for next summer
so I can try again.

 

Jasper Kennedy is a queer, nonbinary writer, organizer, and avid crocheter from north Alabama. They are currently a medical student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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