a garden of arms ||| Word Riot

this time, the fennel bulb won’t burn out,
i tell you. her name is Naji and her voice is deep.

the aloe doesn’t like the sunshine, but today,
it likes her. the gold dots in the air agree,

wheeing and whooping. the rocks in the soil
are foundation, not obstacle.

the green leafy sprouting we swore was basil
is a purple flowering weed. i hacked down

the dry stalks from last year’s crop
and they’re permanently reaching,

taking up space. the wind
is supposed to throw seeds

and the plants are supposed to spew pollen
and the vegetables are supposed to grow and

grow and feed us—but everywhere else is stone,
a bundle of dried sticks, mossy dirt between concrete blocks.

everywhere else says no. her name is probably
Naji and i don’t hate her, but I want to sing

like her, like a bottle of wine and
i want that awful hesitation, that click,

before i wrap my arms and legs around you,
and i want you to shrink back

into another language, the one
you invented that has the same

exact word for yes and no.
i want to repot the jade plants.

i’d skip town in a car,
return to a jungle,

pick a pepper, whoop
like a hungry bird.


Kimberly Ann Southwick is the founder and editor in chief of the biannual print literary arts journal GIGANTIC SEQUINS. She has two poetry chapbooks, EVERY SONG BY PATSY CLINE and the forthcoming EFS & VEES. She is moving to Lafayette, LA with her husband this August to begin pursuing her PhD in English/Creative Writing at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

a garden of arms” was originally published on Word Riot in December 2011.

Her poem “Near sonnet for my hometown” was previously published in John le Carré (TLR, Winter 2015).