The seed is too small for thick fingers to grasp singly;
I must take several at a time, then, by rubbing
fingertip to thumb, attempt dispensing
one to three per measured space, to measured depth.
With smaller ones, like lettuce, I don’t even try
to count, just scribe a shallow groove atop the row
and sprinkle them, to thin and thin again until
the space where dozens sprouted now is held
by one: the winner.
I know approximately when to plant,
how deep, how widely spaced the rows,
by studying the page provided gratis
at the hardware store. I thought before
of all the little packets as supplies,
special in their own way, but for all that
just another item on the list, along with soaker hose,
short-handled spade, and fish-emulsion fertilizer.
Now I study them uneasily, aware,
no matter how my aged eyes must strain
to see them, each seed is possessed, was built
by an intelligence not human, not divine,
but different. A brainless mind resides
within its nuclei, among its twisted strands,
perusing the instructions written there
in base-pair sequence code. By senses
without organs mine can recognize
it knows, knows when the time is right, it knows
when soil is warm enough and wet enough
for sending down a root and up a shoot,
it knows in which direction waits the sun,
knows how to find the nutrients. It turns
throughout the day its leaftops, and it counts
the hours of daylight to determine
when will be the most propitious time
to flower, woo the pollinators, fruit,
and die. All this it does by activating
and deactivating portions of itself,
instructing new cells whether to become
leaf, stem, root, twining tendril, sexual device—
a knowing my cells share, though I do not.
And yet, by virtue of authority invested
by hardware store and city zoning board,
I fancy myself partner in this process
by which both of us in turn are fed.
She wears emotion like a badge
of honor and entitlement,
permission to regress, suspend
the courteous impediment
which otherwise might tame her words,
deprive her of the only thing
that lets her share with all who hear
the sharpness of her suffering.
What one of us would turn away,
as if to question whether she
were treated—though we meant no harm—
with crass insensitivity?
Of such we reassure her, and
of our unqualified esteem,
our fervent hope these callous sins
she will allow us to redeem.
Yet see with what heroic grace
she bears them, though they clearly smart,
dismissing our concern in the
largess of her forgiving heart,
and if her voice betrays the wound
is not quite healed, we can but try
next time to be more careful, lest
we cause her further injury.
We will, though, and again she’ll weep,
and sharp will be the shame of it,
for all have felt what she does now—
but wonder why she cannot let
the incidental slight go by
while cherishing that treasury
of faith that lasting friendship builds,
and know her true security?
Copyright © Edward Robson 2013
61, has a PhD in Psychology from UNC-Chapel Hill. His
poetry has been selected for publication in Heart,
Golden Words 2010, Taking Flight 2013, Prune
Juice, Third Wednesday, and Eunoia Review.
He has also published essays, drama, and professional
articles and is currently working on several fiction
projects and a screenplay. Ed supports himself as a
neuropsychologist, enjoys time with his four children and
one grandson, grows vegetables, walks nearly everywhere,
collects micromineral specimens, and works for peace. He
lives in Winston-Salem, NC, represented his city at the 2004
and 2006 National Poetry Slam Championships, and is a member
of W-S Writers.