Winner of the first prize in the
Sakhi Awards 2018.
By Matilda Berke
When you wake on the mornings when coffee
is not enough to stir the ashes in your stomach,
brew a misty carafe
& take the grounds out to the garden.
Every seed is welcome here, each layer of leaf a gift,
each fruit wrapped in perfume.
Tubers grown plump on synthesis, we know
the value of serenity. To be woman is to be born with thorns,
to be walled in cellulose & defiance,
to be hardy, to be buried & survive.
Scorched earth is a stranger to allegiance
& no matter who pulls the trigger,
pale green things always end up caught in the crosshairs
with fresh sparks running through our veins like sap,
poised & ready for the sky to ignite.
We’ve learned the fact of living as resistance.
We are sunspots springing up in sidewalk cracks,
roots deep & damp & tangled in rocky substrate. We are always healing,
over & over & over again —
there’s a reason dandelions burst with medicine. Any weed worth its salt
has learned to handle spiteful ground
but we flower best with a little tenderness.
So stretch your toes into the soil;
there is room to grow here,
there is good clay & loam & chamomile
& the firmament will leave you watered.
All this light & birdsong is for you,
a balm on wind-chapped leaves
in frostbite & smothering drought.
When the world throws us winter we become our garden beds,
the hardiest blooms this earth has known.
There has been enough war waged against us
to fill a litany of herbicide: dioxin & steel-toed boots
& locust swarms & trampled shoots,
those who look at us like fuel for their own burning. & yet
in all those days of degradation,
no man has ever stood in the way of spring.
Matilda Berke has been recognized by YoungArts, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the L.A. Tomorrow Prize, the Molotov Cocktail’s Shadow Award, & the L.A. Youth Poet Laureate competition, among others. She will be double majoring in English & Economics at Wellesley College; in her free time, she hopes to take up sailing & read as many books as possible. Find more of her writing at Pedestal Magazine, Up the Staircase Quarterly, & http://matildaberke.weebly.com/.