Gingerbread House Lit Mag

The Alchemist’s Daughter Tends the Poison Garden

I will tell you this: if you want to grow something evil,
the soil is just as important as the seed. My father knew
this. He fertilized his study with fossils and shark teeth,

decorated his desk with jars of animal embryos suspended
in formaldehyde: a chicken, a pig, a rabbit. The fascination
for dead things breeds madness. Who could have forseen?

I’ve learned to recognize the beauty of dangerous living
things. I sing to the foxgloves in the morning, their pastel
purple bells so innocently toxic. The larkspurs all dressed

in blue and the oleanders swooning blatantly pink. Their
saturated colors whisper a warning if you just know how
to listen. The red hourglass on the underbelly of the black

widow. The sapphire circles of the blue-ringed octopus,
how they scream danger! like a hundred mouths wearing
indigo lipstick. Consider the lionfish: how his symmetry

demands attention, how his brilliant coral-colored stripes
sing arias of venom contained in the needle-spines. Today
I’m planting wolf’s bane right next to the nightshade, and

I know how to nurture every dark seed with the richest
soil. I’ve learned all my secrets from the bees that visit
these poisonous blooms. These flowers thrive in unholy

ground. They yearn to slither translucent tendrils down,
down, greedy fingers blindly searching for fresh bones
in the damp. Here, in my garden they’ll find dead things

below. Let the roots probe and curl into each empty eye
socket of the skulls buried here, like a babe wrapping
a tiny fist around a mother’s little finger. Let the roots

tease out the life-giving nitrogen born of decay. I sing
them a story of a girl whose father forgot her. A child
carrying poison in her blood, in her voice, in her skin.

Rachel Pittman 

Rachel Pittman is an MFA candidate at McNeese State University and a poetry reader for the McNeese Review. Originally from Georgia, she now lives in southwest Louisiana. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from Georgia Southern University. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Gravel, Helix, GSU’s Miscellany, miniskirt magazine, and Whale Road Review.

Artwork: Natalia Drepina


This entry was published on January 31, 2022 at 12:07 am and is filed under 49 (January 2022), Current Issue, Poetry. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.
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