Painted Bride Quarterly’s Slush Pile

Episode 71: The Lost Episode (with bonus Anatomy Lessons!)

July 3, 2019


Although we had a small group for this week’s podcast, we sure had some big discussions.  

First and foremost, we are sad that Jason has repurposed his yellow parson’s table. We always loved picturing him there when he did episodes from home, but—we finally got a photo! Now back to business! (For now…)  

This was our second go at discussing these three poems written by Gwendolyn Ann Hill. The first time around, everyone had attempted to chime in from remote locations: hotel rooms, the back of cars, Abu Dhabi. So, it was no surprise that after great effort, it all went up in flames. However, here we are again to give it another shot! *fingers crossed* 

The first poem up was “Unplanting a Seed,” which was an interconnectedness of tragic events, rewound. It’s ambiguity and ambivalence had the crew awe-struck, and remembering the film Adaptation“Reverse Suicide” by Matt Rasmussen, and “Drafting a Reparations Agreement” by Dan Pagis.

Of course, somehow our conversation on this extraordinary poem somehow turned into a discussion on anatomy. For those out there who did not know (hopefully, only a few of you) we have 2 ovaries. Kidneys are not the size kidney beans. And most times, identical twins share a placenta. 

Moving on! According to Jason, the second poem “This Wood is a True Ebony, But it Needs a Century to Grow,” had a certain  “luminescence" to it. He compared it to “This Tree Will Be Here For A Thousand Years” by Robert Bly…even though he’s never read it. Guess we’ll just have to have faith in his intuition!  

Pause: Are freckled bananas like old ladies? Do persimmons  taste like deodorant (Well, even if  they didn’t, I bet they will from now on. You can’t untaste that.) 

The final poem “We As Seeds” brought us a winter experience in the middle of summer. On the contrary, it’s mysterious symbolism or possibly, literal meaning, had us pleasingly stumped, because we made that a “thing.” 

If you were a fan of these poems, Marion recommends that you read Teresa Leo’s book of poems, “Bloom in Reverse."

Well, that’s it for now Slushies. But listen in to see how #flippin’thumbs went! (And help us make #flippin’thumbs a thing, too!)  


Gwendolyn Ann Hill is a native of Iowa City, IA, earned her BA at Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR, and is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, AR. In her spare time you will find her either in her garden or hiking in the forest, because she feels more comfortable around plants than she does around most people.





Unplanting a Seed


In a phone conversation with my mother

we say good-bye first, and finally,

after hours, hello.


A ripe Brandywine turns

from burnt umber, to pink, to green.

Flesh hardens. Juices dry up.


As the fruit lightens,

stems lift their droop.

My cousins and I collect


my grandfather’s ashes

from his fields, gathering them in fistfuls

we place tenderly into an urn.


Petals fly from the ground.

Pollen migrates upward

from deep reproductive recesses,


attaching to a bee’s leg.

The bee flies backward

to a tomato plant in the neighbor’s yard.


Bee populations are on the rise.

A surgeon places the ovary

gently into my body, twists


my fallopian tube into a tangle,

watches it turn black and blue.

My grandma gets all her memories back


for one fleeting second,

then forgets them one by one

as wrinkles dissolve slowly from her face.


Whorls close into diminishing buds.

Rain floats skyward;

gathering, in droplets, to the clouds.


The Brandywine plant contracts

its leaves, one by one, 

meristem lowering into the soil.


My grandfather collects pesticides

into nozzles. His plows reverse

the soil back into place. He tucks weeds


between vegetables. Rivers run clean

all the way back to the source.

My mom is a teenager, pulling smoke


from the air with her lips,

returning to the town she will call home

its population growing


then dwindling, to fade

eventually into prairie.

Roots recede. Cells merge,


walls breaking down

between daughters.

A casing hardens around the seed.


My grandfather—now a boy, eyes

shining beneath the shadow of his hands—

plucks it out of the ground


between thumb and forefinger

and places it carefully

into the seed-packet,


closing the hole

he made in the earth

as he moonwalks away.




This Wood is a True Ebony, But it Needs a Century to Grow


Split, by the bottomland

creek in mid-October, a persimmon

lay on a bed of netted leaves,

waxy skin hiding the dazzle


jack o’ lantern fruit. I extract

an ant invader, lick my lips.

A little rot sweetens it for sucking,


like jelly Grandma boiled all summer—

the sun with sugar and pectin, a drop

or two of rosewater. Fallen


from a thicket with bark deeply

rifted and cracked; charred campfire

logs. Blow on them. When the lights

go out, these trees glow from within.





We, As Seeds


Right now, we are enduring

a period of cold

stratification, as we must.


Let the sun droop low.

Let the snow

melt, crust, pile


up, and melt again,

tumbling over

the husks of our bodies.


Let the temperature drop.

Let the starlings flock

to peck at the detritus


that engulfs

us, burying us over

and over again.


Only this long

freeze can soften

our shells. Only this dark


washing and rinsing

of our skin can bring

us to bloom.



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