I dig at my garden with my hands, though the dirt is hard and dry and brown. I open the earth and drop in pieces of myself. They plop, dust kicking up , before I cover them again
My heart rests in the upper left corner, the first addition to my garden. I buried it the deepest, far enough my hands tore and bled as I dug out the hard earth. She had lived inside me for too short a time, ripped from my womb by fate when she was too little to do more than gasp and shudder. Stillness took her, and I planted her here.
Bits fall off me all the time. Tiny invisible pieces, but I can feel them. They slough off like dead skin, and I end up on hands and knees searching for them. Grief hollows me out and fills my garden with its death.
Tears soak the dirt until it looks like blood in the moonlight, but it never grows. It never matters the tending I do, nothing grows or heals. I attack the weeds and cacti when they sprout, and water the ground by the salty buckets full.
New pieces join the others when I find them. I put them in my pocket, hidden and safe until I can plant them. I don’t recognize what falls off, or what it used to be, but then I’d never recognize my liver if I saw it. There is not much left of me anymore.
Thin bushes rise up around me and watch me work each evening. They whisper to the Yucca plants, and to the Joshua Trees casting shadows over my garden.
My hands part the earth and grow careful as they near my heart. A pink blanket with embroidered flowers bundles the tiny form. Her body fits in my arms, against my chest, and I pretend she coos and wiggles as all children should. I close my eyes and see her grasping for my finger and pulling at my hair.
She doesn’t move though. She never moves.
I place her back in the ground with a kiss, and damp earth clings to my lips. The dirt covers her, another pile in my dead garden, and I spill more useless water on the ground.
Heather Heyns is a lifetime resident of Southern California. When she isn’t writing, she is chasing young children (usually her own), baking bread, and avoiding escalators. Her previous work can be found in Howl Literary Magazine, and on her mother’s refrigerator.
–Art by Jan Rockar
–Art by Plamen Stoev
–Art by Joel Hohner