The First Bite
Note: On receiving Wicker Family Heading Collard Seeds, first cultivated in Prosperity,
South Carolina in the 1800s, grown out by Nat Bradford and sent in the mail November
By Jill Neimark
I didn’t think much of the collard seeds you sent, taped to torn cardboard
with a neatly printed note:
Plant in peat pots and transfer to dirt six weeks later.
They need a winter freeze, so they’ll flower.
Harvest the seeds before they drop and break.
But they have time-lapsed into savory meals of glazed greens simmered with smoked
I’m lying in our hammock, the one Paul bought and hung, falling in love
with gardens again. Every spring seed coats crack open, and chloroplasts eat sunlight.
I gave Barbara the giants, while Charlie got Runt and Junior.
Those two needed a grow lamp and vitamins to survive
but I barely made it here myself, saved by caesarean section.
Now your collards are spilling across the gardens of Macon, Georgia, while their pods
grow fat and dark.
If there’s one thing gardening taught me it’s that plants let us eat them as if they had no
except our pleasure, and at season’s end bow quietly to the ground
in order to die. But you see, they say, there is no ending
that is not also a beginning.
Poem by Jill Neimark
I’m an author of adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction, and have published poetry, reviews and essays in Cimarron Review (nominated for a Pushcart 2021), Construction Literary Magazine (finalist in contest 2020), Blue Nib, The Rumpus, Aeon, Los Angeles Review, Borderlands and Massachusetts Review, and forthcoming in Scientific American’s Meter (poetry column)