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by Emily Banks

In the Children’s Garden, 
we pull plants when they try 
to flower—sheer white 
petals of arugula, 
sun yellow broccoli 
we let grow too long. 
I kneel beside them, knees 
caked in morning mud, 
choosing which to uproot.

Now we dissect: 
pluck ovaries and seeds, 
take what we need,
compost the rest. 

I have to tell them,
when a plant 
starts making babies 
it sets its mind 
on just one thing. 

Leaves and roots 
turn bitter, thin, 
no longer soft 
enough for us 
to slice. It throws 
all strength to stamen, 
pistil, pollen, sweet 
scents and bright attire 
to lure the bees.

The little girls I teach
still want to work
only with other girls, 
trios and pairs who share
their snacks and clutch
each other’s arms 
when I let them run 
through sprinklers.
Who ever grows up? 
When the cold water hits 
my face, I still scream 
just as loud as them. 

But I remember, then, 
this same garden, just over 
their age: my junior counselor,
tan, half-smiling, rolled-up 
sleeves, who I’d tease 
like an older brother 
but with some new
sense of shame, 
heavy flow of heat 
to my face when I slapped
his arm or punched 
his stomach, stole
his baseball cap—
until I saw them 
on the street, his hands
looped through her jeans, 
all sweat and adolescent 
longing, saw their eyes 
turn down, away from me, 
and I felt something 
growing tough, too fast 
to prune or trellis, a stubborn 
weed no one had taught me
how to cultivate


Emily Banks is a senior at UNC - Chapel Hill, currently writing her thesis in Senior Honors Poetry, and interning for the Carolina Quarterly.  She grew up in Brooklyn NY and is hoping to attend an MFA program next year.

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