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I’M NOT SAYING YOUR GARDEN IS FULL OF SNAKES, BUT I’M ALSO NOT SAYING IT ISN’T by Ian C. Williams


After the move, I inherited a garden—

every bed overgrowing its edging stones 


with weed and tangling vine, withered tendrils 

and twisted thorns. So I tear out their coil 


and suffocation, break up and layer the earth—

cardboard, dead leaves, topsoil, mulch—


redefining the boundaries by churning the soil 

and clothing it with what is new.


But old friend—we garden differently. 


You’re tearing through hibiscus and hedgerow 

while I dig through the loam for answers.


As it is, I have forced raw fingerprints past the crust 

and scooped away the soil in search of the foul seed 


that you planted, that scarred the ground between us. 

No one warned me how it would sprout—enraged—


out of the earth, vines spiraling to choke and ensnare. 

It grows its yellow and orange fruit: round, bruised, 


glittering with the acrid dew of resentment. In the end, 

burial is the final labor of bitterness


and every night, you’re lost in the process 

of carving a grave into your front yard 


with shovel, spade, and spite. 

But my hands are filthy, wrist deep in the slick grit 


of this soil, trying to excise this bilious root.

I can’t bring myself to pretend the earth is not upturned.



 


Ian C. Williams is a poet and teacher from Appalachia. He is also the editor-in-chief for Jarfly: A Poetry Magazine. In 2019, Williams received a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Oklahoma State University, and his debut full-length collection of poems, Every Wreckage, is forthcoming from Fernwood Press in 2023. He currently lives with his wife and two sons in Fairmont, West Virginia.

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