Gifts from the seeds

Small plants growing from ground in nature


I turn you in my palm, each of you a plant entire curled within tight kernel, like messages in a bottle tumbling through the rapids of uncertain futures.

tiny garnet jewels, glistening in the sun, you’ll unfurl tall in burgundy drama, insistent beauties amid the wilting heat of SoCal’s August. your thick fibrous stalks like backbone, resilience, strength.

curled fetal in dun jacket, white hilum edged in goth mascara, your origins ancient within high-desert extremes, you’ll yield rich pods year-upon-year despite the searing sands of my own Hell’s Half Acre—mine admittedly much smaller than Mr. Morton’s. sans water, sans shade, you shrug off climate catastrophe.

wrinkled and wadded like a balled-up page discarded, dark creases with secrets within, your compound structure multiplicity, secreting multiple sprouts. your luscious leaves will harvest nearly year-round, you’re a promiscuous outbreeder, resilience within landrace diversity, your continual replenishment so reassuring.

like a microscopic tan lentil birthing bitter greens, you’ll stretch into a salad mainstay I’ve learned to love. your flowers beckon the bees, your seedpods, the songbirds. your seedlings two hearts entwined, the first ones up after a hint of rain. you sing the glories of DIY: we will sprout anew.

rich white like full-fat cream, fatter than most segments of my fingers, you’re what Jack’s giant stalk must have sprouted from. your vines might form a twining bind between differing worlds, even though they might be uncomfortable, rebraiding communities.

round and dull like the ubiquitous small brown birds, you’ll sprout into grey lace. soon your petals will flutter so golden they should be translucent, the simultaneous delicate and hardy beauty of our local. you and your sisters nourish the natural ecosystem, feeding local fauna—which, should humans ever open our eyes, is the truest, grandest community.

nondescript and tiny, angular brown, you’ll grow broad leaves like an odd dandelion, in your second summer arching arms skyward with evening chains of lemon-yellow blossoms. twenty summers back I rescued you from beneath the treads of bulldozers crushing local wetlands, later to re-matriate you as a healing herb. together we might heal this land.

as guardians of the seed, we protect you, caress and treasure you year-to-year to grow out again, as our predecessors have done despite wars, migrations, suppression and disruption, seed sovereignty a phenotype of democracy and freedom. together, we carry forward in perennial hope.


Did you guess the seeds?

1: Stanza 2: amaranth. 3: black-eyed peas. 4: swiss chard. 5: arugula. 6: runner bean. 7: California poppy. 8: evening primrose


Poem by J. Maak


J. Maak is a writer and change-maker in urban Los Angeles. Her poetry has appeared in Wild Roof Journal and Plants and Poetry Journal. She teaches environmental sustainability at a private college as well as to the general public. When not writing, she can typically be found in a garden: helping others with their vegetable plots, maintaining her own fruit trees and veggies, or watching birds and butterflies in the backyard wildlife habitat she stewards.