Jessica Tiller

a gardener grows on 12th street

there are heavy things
worth carrying. water,
the foremost in my mind
— compost, too.
organic, unwieldy,
fallen from the sky
or from asses

to be used, to be made
useful. one or many
living things,
a cycle, a communion,
a world of ten thousand things,

the bucket
the harvest.



trespasser’s lament

Gerald walked into the soup kitchen, feet bleeding, and I wasn’t queasy. not by any
particular courage, but by what my mother calls “a failure to assess the risks.” a steady
belief in immortality– my own, everyone else’s. 

he sat sheepish in the back room, somehow taking up less space than a man his size,
steady shrinking. ashamed for me to see–

shards of glass, hard
from angles unnatural
deep bodily insult, hard

to tell what was human
(it shouldn’t be hard
to tell what is human)

he said I had a bad night, I said “sure.” knelt before him with gloves and probably the
wrong tools and probably the right bandages, though who can be sure, i wasn’t trained
for this–

extricate shard from flesh
undo calluses in ribbons
slippery flow of red, pus-yellow

ballooning indecent,
festering mad

wash the feet
reinvent mercy, bloody
as mercy has been before

preserve what a mother calls foolishness
and if foolishness fails,
improvise. don’t look away

i said, “so, where are you from?” right around here, ma’am. northeast KC, born and raised,
“will you tell me what happened last night?”

he drew me a map–

shoulder blade
               here’s where the bullet
               from 1982 still lives

back of the knee
               here’s where a guard dog in ‘94
               turned tendon to tendril

               left foot, by now crusted in an amateur bandage
               here’s where, you can imagine,
               can’t you, ma’am?

i said “sure” though i surely couldn’t–
i said “you’ve lived a life”
Gerald said yes ma’am

               this is what happens
               when every corner of the world
               belongs to someone else