Claudia Wilson’s “Chloe says the earth wants to grow things” & Dawn Paul’s “Soften Your Eyes”

Chloe says the earth wants to grow things

by Claudia Wilson

We spend so
much time
on the
but we never
touch it
She says this
while giving me
seeds and a
tomato plant
We pick a spot
my fingers
touch the earth. It’s dry
like my belief and
brittle like my heartache.
The world keeps disappointing
me over and over
Why am I surprised?
Digging feels like we are either
burying something or looking
for it. We plant seeds. I place
the tomato plant near a tree.
The tomato plant calls
my name. It is the next day.
I hear its voice mingling
with my rage. Has a tomato plant ever
called your name? Has it opened
its red mouth for you?
It says, Claudia
It wants water.
The voice soaks  
in my heart like
new love.
Who would have thought that the barrier between my hatred in the world’s blunt want for black bodies and my sanity could be a leaf, blades of grass, my finger dipped in a pot of soil alive with juice or buds of cherry tomatoes on the vine? A black girl calling me to ask me if she could show me how to grow things is a shimmer  is a flash of light  is a flicker. Play that song “Sun Ra” by Jamilah Woods then take a cup of water and pour it into the dirt. Let the earth swell black let the earth dirt bubbles take like breath and see my rage transform pushing its way through to the basil plant, who is pushing its way through the ground like a braid of hair on a tiny black girl’s head.

Mass Poetry Writing Prompt: 
Write a poem about the first time you tried to grow something. What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about the earth below you and the world around you? Start with a quote from someone who taught you about gardening and go from there.  

Soften Your Eyes

by Dawn Paul

It’s what birders say:
an instruction to stop squinting
relax your knotted body, flesh pulled
around your eyes tight
as a drawstring
harking back to an ancient need
to be alert to all movement,
which in this case is only
the flitting of small brown
gray birds in a leafless thicket.
Relax the forehead,
eyelids, the small muscles
at the corners of the eyes.
Motions best done with an exhale
and the idea—soften…
Then, yes, the birds come into focus,
tiny details, a thin golden eye ring,
the feathers along the edge of the wing
tinged with russet.
How to look ahead now,
the tense work of seeing emptiness
eyes squinting at loss, at all
that will eventually be taken.
How to soften my eyes,
discern what is there, here,
not concern myself with the wide open
emptiness beyond emptiness.

Poet’s Writing Prompt:
Think of lessons you have been taught. Who taught you? Were they formal lessons such as on-the-job training or in your family kitchen, navigating your neighborhood, or working in a garden? What directives were part of that teaching? For instance, when my mother taught me how to train a dog she told me, “You must never lie to them.” Write a poem in which you use someone’s teachings in a different context. Think of how lessons carry over from one situation to another.

Claudia Wilson

Claudia M. Wilson is an artist, instructor, & social worker who lives in Amherst, MA. They have featured at various venues in Ohio & Boston. Claudia’s present work in progress centers embodiment, family, blackness and nature, and WWF wrestlers from the mid-’80s. Claudia studied English & Black Literature at The Ohio State University and is a TWH & VONA graduate. Their chapbook GROWN was published through Game Over Books Press and is about Claudia’s time in foster care. They study poetry at UMass Amherst and they live with their cat Pablo a.k.a Pooderbutt. They’re originally from Cleveland & Columbus, Ohio. They like to play board games and eat flamin hots on the weekends.

Dawn Paul

The poems in Dawn Paul’s new chapbook What We Still Don’t Know (Finishing Line Press) examine the contradictions in the life and ideas of scientist Carl Linnaeus, originator of the Linnaean biological naming system used worldwide today. Paul’s poetry has also been published in anthologies including Birdsong, The Absence of Something Specified (on drought) and the Old Frog Pond Farm Chapbook series. Recent journal publications include the Comstock ReviewStonecoast ReviewAvalon Literary ReviewMom Egg Review, and Molecule. She has an MFA from Goddard College and has been awarded residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, the Ragdale Foundation, the Spring Creek Project, and Friday Harbor Marine Laboratories. She is an Associate Professor of writing and literature at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Massachusetts.