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David B. Prather is the author of We Were Birds. His work has appeared in many print and online journals, including Prairie Schooner, Potomac Review, Cutleaf, Sheila-Na-Gig, etc. He studied acting at the National Shakespeare Conservatory, and he studied writing at Warren Wilson College.


Trigger Warning

My father brings me seeds he ordered from a catalog,
says, Here’s those heirloom tomatoes
you like so much. But I know he wouldn’t buy them
unless he wanted them. I think
he’s forgotten the trouble I’ve had with seedlings,
not enough natural light in the house,
the tender plants stretching themselves thin. I tell
my father that I’ll do what I can,
explain again I have too little light. Less than half
survive to be carried outside
in better weather. Freeze advisories even keep me
pinning curtain panels to the wisteria,
but the cold air cannot be stopped, all the buds
susceptible. I should go to the nursery
to replace what has been lost. I should lie about
these spindly stems and withered
leaves. Now there’s nothing but rain, and the soil
is too wet. And I don’t know
what my father expects. The earth must be turned,
made ready. Last autumn, squirrels
left acorns in the fallow ground. Now, saplings take
root, these cast off bits of life rising
toward the sun, so hardy, so resilient. I am amazed
at all the things my body cannot do,
like a dandelion full of such wonderful thoughts
they drift away with the wind.
The season moves on. Soon it will be too late
to anticipate any harvest. Now,
I understand how people go hungry, how sometimes
the world refuses to give us
what we need. Which is different for us all. Sometimes
an ocean trench. Sometimes arctic ice.
Sometimes all I need is some arable land, a few uncloudy
days, and a handful of seeds. Sometimes
I just need my father to tell me even this ground is good.

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