My small fingers broke the box-shaped dirt, revealing delicate, thread-like roots. My father knelt beside me. I pressed the orange marigold roots into the dirt he’d prepared. He blessed himself then touched my forehead. It left a smudge that I was proud of. Clouds moved across the sun while my father continued to dig. I had moved on, not far from him. I chalked the sidewalks, drawing arterial roots to somewhere I didn’t yet know existed. My father said I had cartography in my blood. When he held the crushed leaves of a marigold under my nose, I knew that somehow, we had breached arbitrary frontiers. Smells like pepper, no? He brushed the dirt from his knees and held his hand out to me. We smelled the garlic hitting the oil from my mother at the stove, inside. The wind carried more than sound. My father told me how roots were so fragile, can break so easily. It took me years to understand. I read the future in the lines carved into the back of his sun-browned skin. We held a willing suspension of belief as long as we could. Basked in the kind of radiance that came from speaking out of turn, in the immediacy of a moment sharp as cut glass. It was the only language we knew.
Michelle Reale is an Associate Professor at Arcadia University. She holds an MFA in poetry and is the author of five collections and the forthcoming The Marie Curie Sequence from Dancing Girl Press. She has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize.