“The Roots You Swear By” by Michael Beard

The Roots You Swear By

You bring me inside the greenhouse
where you spend hours cultivating yourself.
You measure that my heart takes one cactus to fill,
and I insist it’s more like two
if we don’t count the roots, and you say,
always count the roots.

An orchid brushes against my wrist and I flinch,
stump shoulders, dry fingers
not conditioned for such intimacy, such
lavish intimacy.
I watch you mist the ferns
the way our soft breaths manifest in the cold—
attentive, tender, these methods
an unspoken cycle of keeping.

Please don’t ask me to take the cactus home
because then I will grow to witness
what these two hands can nourish,
press thumbs into spines, prove
that cactus and heart
are not so different
when it comes to where we put our love.

Michael Beard studies poetry at Bowling Green State University MFA program. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Mantle Poetry, Oakland Arts Review, Glass Mountain Review, and the 2021 Southern Literary Festival Anthology, among other places. Twitter: @themichaelbeard. Instagram: @themichaelbeard.