By Camille Clarke
She calls it a greenhouse but I call it a glass castle. And in this castle, she is the queen, no, a king. She kneels in the dirt in her majestic overalls, rolled up over her strong calves, calves I touch only with my eyes. In this castle, her crown is her hair in a braid around her head, and I saw it down once, a river of brown through her fingers. I wish they were my fingers.
I lie in the grass with my face to the sun while Her Royal Highness nurtures her plants. “Flowers go here, herbs go here, and fruits and veggies are over here.” The place is in chaos but she knows where everything is. “I like a little crazy,” she says, and I think I like a little crazy too.
When she reaches deep into the ground and pulls out clumps of hydrangea, she tosses her head back and laughs and she knows she is magic. “Marta, come here,” she says and I have no choice but to come. She is the King and she is beautiful, dirt under her fingernails, grass stains on her overalls, on her white T-shirt. She puts flowers in my hair and tucks them into my cleavage and pins them between my toes. I am her muse, her canvas, her painting here in the castle.
Thyme and rosemary sprout beneath her fingertips. She puts them in the lemonade I bring from my mother’s house. The drink glistens on her lips. “You look so pretty with your mouth all wet,” she tells me and I tell her she does, too.
“You look pretty all the time, Kay,” in an unsteady voice. But she doesn’t hear me say this, already tossing back the rest of her lemonade and crawling over to her tomato plants.
Here in this castle, sometimes I fall asleep, and phantom touches along my collarbones, my shoulders, down between my breasts wake me. Sometimes they are her fingers and sometimes they are fuzzy leaves, and she murmurs things, recites poetry I don’t know. And garlands of flowers around your soft neck, and I want her to kiss me. I want her to speak the words into my mouth though I’m not sure where they are from or why she says them.
“Were you a poet in another life?” I ask her.
“What makes you think I had another life?”
She says nothing about her past, where she was before she came here, or why she looks at me on cloudy days and tells me, “I wish I could plant you here.”
I wish she could, too. She would bury me in the wet dirt, stroke my soft buds, cultivate me into something new. I wonder what kind of plant I would be. Something she loved.
When the sun goes down she tells me not to leave. Her crown is askew, her regal smile tired. We go into her cottage, and here I am queen. Here, I say, you can take your crown down. Come rest in the water, you and your weary hands, your sunburnt skin, your cracked knees. I do not know poetry with words, but I know it with other things, and perhaps one day I will murmur it to you, too.
Camille Clarke is a writer from the Midwest who exists solely on croissants and sapphic poetry. When not consuming either of those things, she is letting her tea get cold or tweeting about her adorable nephew at @_camillessi.