Animal Vegetable Mineral by Jill Bergantz Carley

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Animal Vegetable Mineral

by Jill Bergantz Carley

Four planter beds and one for each, a tiny loamy kingdom
There was enough room to grow grapevines.

There was enough fence line to string sweet peas high.

There was on the westward end a spot we planned, we planted a sunflower house 

thick stalks framing walls, heavy heads a ceiling.

Four planter beds and one for each and I chose a single crop each year: 

purple potatoes, emerald-eyed, strawberries rouged by the sun
we covered them with netting, warm sweet treasure ours and ours alone.

Love, how deep would we need to build the berm to frame the walls today?

What helianthus guides a taproot tenacious enough to find its way through depths of concrete to find its native ground?

The ivy clippings you took for me, thick as kudzu vining
bud vased & left on the kitchen table a current of white roots curving at the bottom when I left for Tennessee I pleaded you:  take care of them. 

I pleaded for the last of these.

Sweetheart, you told me, they have mites I know, I know,
I’ve seen the papery bodies floating on the surface when their lives are through but I fear this                 small ecosystem placid on our glass table pulls them close as the jays who nipped at our berries no matter what we’d do who is to say what grows us forward, who is to say what we deeply need.

I have imagined your sorrow when I return, leaves atrophied and roots browning
It is not your fault;
it is inevitable you saved a single strand for me—

Love, you offered comfort in asking me will you now remember it as it once was
before the oak limb splintered onto the barn roof

How we thought it would come down but there it parried, three more years.
Love, no matter: there is only the always in my remembering, 

                            there is only my heart who urged elsewhere.

Love, I wish it had alighted in the night spark born from its own need to end.
Love, I’d watch it ripen, serrotinous, sweeter than it’d ever been.


author photo

Jill Bergantz Carley makes her home in Calaveras County, California, where she lives a half mile from the stoplight in a sweet town five blocks long. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her poetry has appeared in ENTROPY, OPOSSUM, Silver Needle, & is forthcoming from 580 Split, Okay Donkey, Collective Unrest, and elsewhere.  She’s a Tupelo Press 30/30 poet, with a new poem published daily in March.  You can follow her as she writes her way through the Ides & beyond at

(Pronouns: she/her)