Weed Killer

Our mother gave us a sack of weed killer

the size of a toddler, and told us

to spread it on the front lawn.


My sister and I lugged it there.

A light cloud of white powder

drifted up to our nostrils

and down to our tongues, blooming sour

wherever it touched membrane.

We scooped the stuff out with teenaged zeal

as we dusted the lawn, checkerboard lines

mounded where the grass was thin.


We thought we were done,

but there was still half a sack left.

So we poured again,

more diligently, layering it thick

as it caked in our nails and our palms.

The lines dispersed into snowdrift

wafted by the breeze to our clothes and hair

to neighbourhood gardens, cars, open windows,

to people chatting or eating,

to birds, beyond birds.


We were proud farmers

over a crop we’d just saved.

Then our mother returned

to tell us we’d done it all wrong.


The soft sourness lingered for days

as we watched the lawn choke,

its yellowing skin shrivelling

into bald, numbed soil

that took years to recover.


That fine bitter powder bestowed by our mother,

scattered like ashes over our lives

to steep in blood and bind with tears

in the slow dark turn

of flesh and earth against breath.

Bibliographical info

Fiona Tinwei Lam, "Weed Killer". Copyright © Fiona Tinwei Lam 2009. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Source: Enter the Chrysanthemum (Caitlin Press, 2009)


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