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The Becoming of a Nightshade Woman

by Mureall Hebert

I measured out space for a garden bed in which to grow myself. Belly open, I spilled tender eggs onto dirt, mounded hills in sheets of compost fed from swollen streams. Springtime filled the soil. Heart, lungs, kidneys took shape, tunneling underground from tunicked bulbs. The earth rose, gave way, burst open. A nesting box of me/her sprouted. The garden-woman emerged to taste the air, her legs a curl of runner bean vines, her hair ruffled parsley. 

The plant-me clung to trellises. Flowering, fruiting, champagne-scented blossoms tiptoeing down dewy arms. She was me, but not me, being born from something more fundamental and eternal. I perched at the edge of the garden each night, talking to my leafy doppelgänger. We discussed water and photosynthesis, and if dogs were better than cats. I brushed her parsley-hair and stroked her carrot-fingers. She smiled in shades of watermelon rind.

At harvest time, I couldn’t face the task before me. I can’t bear to cut you down. But she smiled and said it didn’t have to be that way, pulled loose her hands, surfaced her ribs, and uprooted herself over the cedar sill. Her legs were clusters of celery stalks that towered above the peppers. Her eyelashes swept feathered dill. Take my arm, she said, and she linked her elbow through mine, a crook of asparagus and leeks. The two of us strolled to the edge of the world and beyond, complete and altogether new, while the garden, now empty, looked on.

Mureall Hebert lives near Seattle, WA. Her work can be found in Carve, Hobart, [PANK], decomP, and elsewhere. She’s been nominated for Best New Poets, a Pushcart Prize, and an honorable mention in Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction contest. Her chapbook was a finalist in Split Rock Press’s 2020 chapbook series contest. Mureall holds an MFA from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts.

Lead image: “Runner Beans Climbing Up Bamboo Poles” (via Flickr user Cindy Shebley)