It is summer when we come.
The trees are lush and green when we walk in,
still licking the last taste of our parents’ fruits
from our soft, sticky fingers.
We’ve ventured from the shades
of their gardens only a few times before.
Laughter blossoms in our chests
as we turn our bodies to face each other,
reassuring ourselves that we indeed
do not have to tread this new path alone.
But not all of us fit into the circles.
Our smiles freeze when we realize
we are here to forge our own seeds,
to experiment with the soil, water, temperature
and find the perfect environment for our future.
We find ourselves just humble gardeners,
and amateur ones at that.
But our teachers have spent years
sifting their fingers through soils,
observing flora drink up water,
measuring the warmth of the air,
all the while overlooking their own pains.
They offer their calloused hands
once again, and we are not left alone.
The leaves burst aflame, radiant and proud,
then fall to their deaths in all their fiery glory.
They are our synonyms as we take exam after exam,
complete projects only to turn around and find
a new one waiting, still warm from the printer.
We notice the secrets locked within the irises
of our classmates, stories of her mother dying,
of finding out he’s undocumented,
of her learning the definition of abuse,
of the floating pill bottles in his dreams.
Yet the world still turns,
and we carry on experimenting in the gardens,
offering words of comfort, a piece of chocolate,
no longer the children from before.
The gray winter and bare trees
mirror our melancholy minds.
We constantly remind ourselves that
numbers do not define us.
We are not just an ACT, an IB, a GPA.
But the world counters back,
colleges counter back,
our families counter back,
“Aren’t you really, though?”
We buy into the lie,
forget to run out to watch the first snowfall
because we were scrambling
to bubble in circles before time was up,
shoot hoops at basketball practice,
type a paper on politics and
how everything seems lost.
Yet the winds shift restlessly,
sensing a season of change,
and we remember spring’s promise.
But when spring does come, we hear
the deafening silence of empty desks
belonging to our brethren who fell
before the tree blossoms did.
We bury them in the ground still cold
and stand to walk out in their shoes,
for fear taught us that they are us and we are them
when we stare down the barrel of a gun.
Our fingers are no longer soft after years of toil.
Our seeds are finished, and not one is like another.
Planting season begins now,
so we must disperse to bury our seeds.
How can we not be fine?
After all, we are the heartbeats
the universe syncs itself to.
The years age alongside us
so that when we turn 18,
the world does too.
So we will walk untrodden paths overgrown with ivy,
fly across thundering skies alight with crackling electricity,
sail the rolling waves away from the guidance of lighthouses
to chart our own courses
and plant our seeds in the lands they’ll flourish.
And we will never forget our Kentucky heart
and the seasoned gardeners that helped us
discover our own gifts to grant the world.