Safety Harbor, Florida, 2020

My grandmother grows sweet potatoes
in her backyard. Basil, taro,
tomatoes. something called culantro,
too. I ask her what that is.
She doesn’t answer because she doesn’t
know how to say it in English,
and i can’t help her because i’ve never seen
this long, jagged leaf in either language.
Its name skids off my tongue
over and over again, as if repetition
might massage the memory.
She hands me something that
google translates to sweet perennial peppers.
The bite-sized pumpkin shaped
green and orange juggle in my palm,
and I remember their smell,
how many times it floated through the kitchen
right before dinner.
Her basil leaves bloom
over a large tree, while potatoes
sprout from the ground. The tomatoes
dwell in old milk jugs sliced in half.
I spent the last month
binge-watching The Walking Dead,
so naturally, this all feels like
survival. We’ve spent the last
nine months in-home, or otherwise masked
so naturally, this all feels like
or survival.

When I was a child and we were still
living in the Bronx, my cousins and I
would snatch feeble and ungrown
tomatoes off of my grandmother’s suffering trees.
I’d throw the plump red, sometimes green fruit
as horizontally as my arms could manage,
and Marc, my cousin, standing eagerly,
knees bent, on the other side of the yard,
would swing the bat–right on time,
every time. We jumped and cackled
under the sudden explosion
of seed and juice.

I ask my grandpa if he misses
his friends back in New York,
the ones from church.
He says all my friends are dead now.
My grandmother rips off a small bean pod,
opens it for me to see the glossy,
gandules maturing inside.
My fingertip brushes
her brown, wrinkled hand
—baby tender, Floridian hot.

Released from the tension
that held our tongues,
we endure ruth for
what we’ve lost
and marvel
at what they’ve grown.


God Willing.

My grandmother is reliable
though she never makes
promises. She agrees, firmly,
to make my favorite meal,
to take a morning walk with me,
to visit me in Iowa City,
with the even firmer disclaimer:
si Dios quiere. While there are
countless things on which we
disagree, we both know that
the will of God surpasses our own.
We both know that God probably laughed
when she said she’d never
knit a blanket for a dog,
when I said I’d never
learn to cook, wash a dish,
bask in the warmth of cooking
a meal that someone enjoys,
dwell in the comfort of a shining,
greaseless sink.
when we said we’d never
understand one another.
when I said I’d never rationalize
feelings of worry when Mom
doesn’t answer the phone,
and I’d never walk back
down the block to check that
the air fryer was unplugged,
and I’d never wake up
in the middle of the night
to ask a guest if they were
cold and needed an extra blanket.
When I said I’d never inherit
the worry, the ongoing torment,
emphasize the obvious,
state what is implied:
si Dios quiere.


Meghan B. Malachi is a consulting analyst and poet from the Bronx, NY. Her work can be found in Milly Magazine, NECTAR Poetry, Pages Penned in Pandemic, giallo lit, and Writers With Attitude. Her first chapbook, The Autodidact, was published in December 2020. She lives in Chicago, Illinois.