In The Garden

Leave a comment

April 2, 2023 by The Citron Review

by Melissa Benton Barker


I painted a small room lavender. You caulked the windows. A baby cried.

I planted a garden but did not tend it. Thickets grew against the porch, snakes nested beneath the stoop. We found a small rabbit breathing in the downspout, its heartbeat like a shivering.

You said: Better move it before it rains.

I let it be. I don’t know if it nested or drowned.

The baby slept in a crib by the window. Or sometimes, she slept in the crook of my arm.

I still believed in time.

I did not tend the garden so you forbid me from purchasing more herbs or flowers. I was too busy. I was too lazy. I was too much covered with the baby. Still, how we loved our industrious visitors, she and I. The bees, bumping and humming just beyond her brow. The swallowtails with their accidental flight. She reached for them.

She was clumsy.

The hummingbirds with their thrilling whir and their dust-sized hearts.

Our baby.


[                                               ]


I forbid you to mow.

You acquiesced, and left that particular patch. It was still mine. This was your concession. You mowed around it. I kept my small visitations. Out on that porch, I grew ancient with watching. The cement cracked and the earth burst with clover and mullein. Milkweed and marshmallow gathered at my waist. Bright fronds of goldenrod frightened away the neighbors. Or maybe that was my heart. Still, there were traces of the original garden, an undergrowth of oregano planted when I was a mother, back when I buried webbed roots into the soil with her strapped to my chest, her soft heels drumming at my ribcage, her tuft of hair whispering against my chin.

Our daughter.

There is time, but no will to clean out the garden. I relinquish any interest in taming, claiming, and domestication. I lay it all on the altar. I stand before you, sightless and naked and covered in clover. I let the house-snakes wind round my ankles.

I will never leave willingly.

You’ll have to carry my body out of this place when it’s finally time to go.


Melissa Benton Barker lives in Ohio with her family. Her writing appears in Southern Indiana Review, Atlas and Alice, Midway Journal, Best Small Fictions, and elsewhere. She is the flash fiction section editor at CRAFT



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow us and receive notifications of new issues by email.

%d bloggers like this: