In the garden


I water                        I watch


The lace-winged labor of play

The animals loll and swat at plants


Fur rubs the sidewalk

Camouflaged skins burrow inside

Fur lines the flesh light



In the gnawing chew             of sidewalk hum

I played street games


The sun a vector                                     I hid in the cool dark


Aimed cue ball at bruised knuckles

My father taught me


How to hurt

How to be pennies



On the fire escape             I grew like a dandelion

Greedy for pigeon talk and flowered skirts


I wanted to be a garden

So I doused myself with hosewater


Painted my arms with thorns

In the wandering dusk


How to be a fortress

Tenement of my red mouth


How to be quiet

Dig under the belly

Lift the stone slab


(from a writing prompt by Elizabeth Treadwell and anthologized in “Hereditament”:

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Melissa Eleftherion is a writer, a librarian, and a visual artist. She is the author of field guide to autobiography (The Operating System, 2018), & nine chapbooks, including the forthcoming trauma suture (above/ground press, 2020). Born & raised in Brooklyn, Melissa now lives in Mendocino County where she manages the Ukiah Library, teaches creative writing, & curates the LOBA Reading Series. Recent work is available at

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