Sarah Clayville


She tells me seeds can’t grow where there isn’t sun, but here we are five years later.

I dig into the ground with my bare hands. The soil hasn’t been touched in a hundred years. It cracks with pleasure at the company of my fingers. I misplace an earthworm. Wonder how parched it must be in this odd patch of land the grass has abandoned. She sits on the patio, paging through a magazine sipping lemonade that dribbles onto her bare legs. I can’t decide if it’s better to be thirsty or sour, so I keep digging.

This isn’t the growing season she warns me because we are already in full-blown summer. Azaleas blossom. Tulips split. Black-eyed Susans riot. My seeds are lonely, so I drop more in. When she isn’t looking, I spill a few drops of my mint julep onto them. Enough to ease growing pains. I cross my thumbs in a heart as I press the earth back down.

New construction is put on hold. Our dream patio, marked out with painter’s tape in March, remains a silhouette covered by pollen and drooping dandelion heads. From time to time I look up and see her body against the sun, back arched the way the flowerheads ache for light. When do we break ground? I ask, but her straw hat is in the way of her ears or mouth. I can’t be sure.

The impossible blooms in July. A small sprout punches through the ground. Meanwhile she’s filled a leather travel bag. Her favorite things are packed down into the luggage like fresh soil. Only nothing is planted. Rather she’s harvested her favorite mementos and smuggles them away on a train to visit friends up the coast. She’s left no instructions on how to tend to loneliness.

The sprout persists. Day after day it grows but never blooms. The stalk is thick like straw. Once, out of malice when I realize I don’t know a damn thing about gardening, I pinch and realize just how solid it is. I imagine weaving baskets or tropical huts. The smoldering clouds have eaten up the sky for days. While the other flowers close up, worried she’s not coming back and lose their luster, my seeds thrive. Soon a crowd of stalks reclaim the barren ground.

Sarah Clayville writes and teaches from the wilds of Pennsylvania. She holds a special place in her heart for small stories that fit in the palm of a hand. Follow her work at