Let Them Grow
Pushcart Nominee 2022
When I was younger, I loved my garden. I decorated my hair with baby’s breath, planted their stems in my afro, and pretended I was a queen. I rubbed fragrant lavender on my neck and wrists. On very special occasions, I made wishes on dandelion seeds. I did not do this often because I didn’t want to uproot too many of them. Every night I went outside and picked peppermint leaves to make hot tea before bed. The rich, sharp scent of peppermint was a welcome respite from a long day. The steam from the boiling water gently warmed my face. It was only then that I would allow myself to take a deep, slow breath. Then I sipped my tea and stared out at the night sky—the moonlight draped over my shoulders like a shimmering scarf. This was my life. Until the day the locusts arrived.
There was no warning before the locusts descended in droves. They gobbled up every plant I had, ravaged the soil, swallowed every seed. Precious dandelion wishes were uprooted and set aflame. Peppermint leaves drowned in mud. All of my lavender petals were plucked from their stems. Clumps of baby’s breath were quickly devoured. Painted flower pots were smashed on the ground. The shards cut my feet when I ran outside.
I sank to my knees as I looked around at the debris in my garden. I sat cross-legged and devoted myself to the task of picking the flower pot shards from my feet. Among the shards, I found one peppermint leaf. I gripped the leaf in my hands and heaved a great sigh.
Everyone prayed to the gods to release us of this curse, and eventually the year of the locusts came and went. The gods said the locusts would return, as was the way of the world, though no one would know when. As the years passed, everyone calmed. The locusts weren’t coming back, they concluded. They planted new seeds and from neighboring gardens rose magnificent flowers.
I planted new seeds too, but I could not stop hearing the seeds crunch in the mouths of hungry locusts, could not stop seeing petals smeared across my land. At night, I got my shovel and dug them up once they sprouted. Then I prayed over the empty pockets for the souls of the flowers I lost. A seed would sprout, grow a little, and wiggle past layers of earth eager for sunshine. Quickly, I would yank it out before it could taste one sun ray. Then I would fold my hands in prayer, bits of green still caked under my fingernails. I prayed so long I couldn’t wash the brown stains out of the knees of my jeans. I mourned for the old seeds that were lost and for the new seeds that wanted so badly to present me with flowers. I did not want the locusts to come back. I was saving these seeds before they could destroy them. That’s
what I told myself. I tried to convince myself to let them grow. But every day I could not help but dig them up. I could not help myself. While other gardens flourished right next to mine, I was
ashamed of my dry patches of soil. My neighbors were puzzled. They recommended new fertilizers and remedies.
“But the locusts,” I explained.
“It has been years since the locusts were here,” they reassured me quickly, as the rest of my words died on my tongue. I took their herbal waters, crushed egg shells, miracle composts and buried them in the soil. Planted new seeds in neat rows, all the while pleading with my hands to let them live. At night when I passed my garden my hands twitched, reaching for the shovel. Wait, I reasoned with them. I forced my hands flat on the ground, went down on my knees, pressed my ear against the soil, and closed my eyes. I took a deep breath and relished the scent of the Earth, still damp with last night’s rainfall. When I opened my eyes again, it was morning. I looked for my shovel, but again, I urged my hands to wait. So I sat down, laid my palms flat on the Earth, and resolved to stay like that for the next ten minutes. Just ten minutes. I could wait for just ten more minutes.
Eva Lynch-Comer holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Hamilton College. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Tilted House Review, Carmina Magazine, and Nightingale & Sparrow, among others. You can find more of Eva's work at https://evalynchcomer.weebly.com or follow her on Instagram @evalynch321