PoetryWinter 2021-2022

Ode to Plant Momdom — L. Renée

And without having to pee on a stick, suddenly
my identity shifts. I’m no longer a party of one,
but carry three cacti babies and 16 quarts of Miracle-
Gro out the Big Box store, which I’m ashamed to name
because I don’t want my parental temperament to be
tabloid fodder — Breaking News: Woman Buys Packaged
Dirt, Makes Kids Eat It! — nor subject to sneers
from organic green-thumbed moms who reach deep
into earth’s crumbly fudge, pour generous helpings
as if serving sundaes. I won’t be scooped up and lauded
for my innate guru-ing, unlike my grandmother
who grew strawberries, planted a peach tree
and red grapevines in the backyard of a suburban
Ohio bungalow and watched flesh form the way God
might have watched us form from dirt, buds
poking out our gloopy centers. And perhaps
I’m overly cautious about soil burrowing beneath
my acrylic coffin nails, so I wear gardener’s gloves
and pray I do not puncture the sprawling roots
branching out the cup casing them. This is the part
I imagine feels most like delivery, transferring
a seedling from a tiny tray, pulling out its ribbed
body and carrying close the exposed bounty
to a new home, some pot with room enough
for growth. Really transplanting is no comparison.
It doesn’t last for hours. Doesn’t require stitches
or ice chips. It won’t mean sacrificing sleep, date nights,
nipple rings for years to come. Maybe that’s why
I choose Grafted Moon Cactus, a ruby lollipop atop
a tri-point stick, which doesn’t require coddling but coos
for me the one time a week I let it drink from my vessel
and hear its seductive suckle gurgle back at me, satiated.
When I text my mother a video of her new grandbabies,
she sends back a link: Why Millennials Are Suddenly So
Obsessed With Houseplants. I bite the inside of my cheek.
A talking head says young people are turning to plants
for purpose while they wait late for newborns or partners,
which may or may not sprout. I want to tell my mother
I stopped waiting three years ago. I want to believe
I’m satisfied with lives that won’t leave my ledge,
ones I can see breathing each morning, reaching out
toward me and the bloom of amber light.


L. Renée is a poet and nonfiction writer from Columbus, Ohio. Her work, nominated for Best New Poets and a Pushcart Prize, has been anthologized in Women of Appalachia Project’s Women Speak: Volume 6 and Volume 7. She is the recipient of the Indiana University Guy Lemmon Award in Public Writing, Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing Alumni Award, Appalachian Review’s Denny C. Plattner Award, 2021 Rattle Poetry Prize finalist, and second place for PLUCK! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture and New Limestone Review’s Crystal Wilkinson Creative Writing Prize. Her poems have been published in Tin House Online, Obsidian, Poet Lore, the minnesota review, Southern Humanities Review, Water~Stone Review, and elsewhere. She has received support from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Inc., Oak Spring Garden Foundation, The Peter Bullough Foundation for the Arts, The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow, Minnesota Northwoods Writers Conference, Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. L. Renée holds a MFA in Poetry from Indiana University, where she was Nonfiction Editor of Indiana Review and Associate Director of the Indiana University Writers’ Conference, and a MS in Journalism from Columbia University, where she was a Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Moore Fellow. IG: @lreneepoems

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