Reading before my Peppery and Earthy friends by gillian harding-russell

Poem title: Reading before my Peppery and Earthy friends
Poet name: gillian harding-russell
Poem: Nasturtiums I’ve secretly seeded 
in a lighted back bedroom in the dark 
of the house during the gloom of winter 
and the drear of a world’s disease 
are sprouting leggy seedlings 
well ahead of spring. A Nordic 
window affords enough light 

to give these headstrong ones life:
the nasturtium nymphs-to-be
with springy palms of round leaves
dancing on slender childlike stems
doing a pas-de-chat with articulate style
and stigma and anther while dreaming
their gold- and orange- and red-drenched
silken-petal souls into being.

Beside them in the long white plantar 
I planted red chilis already flickering 
a row of green tongues on black topsoil.
I suspect the nasturtiums turn their heads 
(one arched-nostril flower-visage-to-be a speck 
of yellow bud) to argue with the hot-tempered chilis
so when I come to them with my thoughts

unguarded, I have to be careful 
or I might be challenged
but when I stand before their nodding heads 
to read a poem they tend to listen – well, if 
it interests them, though a slur or skipped 
word they pick up instantly.

Yes, those pepperish capo friends and 
hot disposed relatives with capuchin views
are harshest critics and may take issue
with something I never thought about 
so I’ve found myself staring embarrassedly
at a round-faced leaf’s WHA-AT? 

and so when I thought all was clear as day
I must find another way to say it
But then the chilis, seeing my distress titter 
under their still-green-leaf, hottish breath.   
End of poem.
Credits and bio: Copyright © gillian harding-russell
Previously published in Grain magazine (winter no 50.2, 2023).
A poet, editor, and reviewer, gillian harding-russell, has five poetry published, the most recent In Another Air (Radiant Press, 2018) and Uninterrupted (Ekstasis Editions, 2020). Both full-length poetry collections were shortlisted for Saskatchewan Book Awards. In 2016, a poem sequence Making Sense won first prize in Exile’s Gwendolyn MacEwen Chapbook Award competition. Also, a short chapbook, Megrim was released by The Alfred Gustav Press in 2021. She lives on Treaty 4 territory.