Do you see? If you don’t force it, it will come, rising as tender shoots of asparagus rose from their crown of roots in spring, each stiff shaft bearing a purpled tip. Mornings, Papa would clip them from their haze of fern, these myriad scepters of an infant king. Do you see? I was a good girl. I never thought twice about growth that spiked through earth like—I was a good girl, helped my father rinse spears with ice, pack them in crates for market. Out in groves where plants pried themselves shyly forth in shade, my sister and I listened to warblers trill, got dizzy from their gazouillis, conjured nests from trees that shook with song. At night when he’d take us, first me and then her, upon his lap—jiggle, jiggle, we’d jerk to his rhythm—we thought nothing of the club in his pants, except—God’s rod and His staff; His seed breeding from the soil each green thing; the asparagus swelling with the season. A good girl. Eating them steamed and served with sauce hollandaise, unbothered by the stink in my piss. And when I became a bad girl, woe betide me if I looked back on the vagrant vegetable lifting skyward its face like a scaly glans. Woe betide me if I thought Papa’s penis brought the pleasure of God’s good pageantry—

Gillian Cummings‘ poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Boulevard, Colorado Review, The Cream City Review, Denver Quarterly, Front Porch Journal, PANK and other journals. Her chapbook, Spirits of the Humid Cloud, was released last August by dancing girl press. She currently teaches poetry workshops at a hospital and is also a visual artist.