Barren 1920 1440 Brittany Atkinson

[1st Place]


I’m pulling plump radishes by each sprouted head
when my sister births my nephew, ivory crusted

with blood. My swollen red bellies aborted
from the soil leave reservoirs for rainfall

hollowed in the dirt. Midnight summons
my nephew’s wails— he craves mother’s

milk. I can barely stomach his scarlet siren
as my garden sleeps blanketed beneath storm-

damp dirt. My rusted radishes, mud-caked
in their baskets, beckon yellow jackets

that duly thrum the stamen of four
o’ clocks. They pollinate while I prepare

for a season of pickling, of blanching in Ball jars.
Jarring— the noise of my nephew red-wet

with a fever weeks later, my shriek
when I wake to find worms through my crop.

So I do what must be done— I devour
my radishes, choke-down every last one.

Header photograph © Tara K. Shepersky.

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