by Jeeni Criscenzo, April 28, 1915
Needed an excuse to sit in the sun,
put my feet up and breathe.
Opened an envelope of lettuce seed buds I’d saved last fall,
splitting each tiny pod with my thumbnail,
pulling out the parachute tufts with a seed at their end,
letting them fall into another envelope propped open on my lap.
Two days to a full moon,
I planned to plant some of those seeds that afternoon,
letting the lunar pull draw moisture from the earth, into their protective casing,
awakening the strands of DNA tucked inside.
Each seed incredibly unique,
yet destined to be only a head of lettuce,
if it could overcome all the random hurdles
that stand between seed and plant –
Had I saved the seed or tossed the spent plant into the compost heap?
Had the envelope been kept dry, so the seeds heads didn’t rot?
Had I found that precious time to sit there and open the pods?
Would I choose this seed to plant and remember to water and tend it?
All of this just for a head of lettuce!
What about the head of human sitting there, thinking these thoughts?
What series of accidents had to happen from the beginning of time,
for this unique combination of DNA that is me to exist?
What tiny variation
in the long, winding trail that runs from me
back to primordial mud
would have doomed me to be something/someone completely different?
I could have been a far right-wing conservative!
-just one flicker of a difference,
different talents or intellect
different choices made by any one of hundreds of thousands of ancestors.
A sudden gust of wind tore the envelope of seeds from my lap!
The way I’d popped it open had made a kite of it.
Soaring over my garden,
a few seeds tumbled out onto that fertile soil.
I would probably pluck them as weeds come spring.
After all, a weed is just a plant
growing where someone decides
it doesn’t belong.
The packet continued its unscheduled flight
over our fence to my neighbor’s yard.
Perhaps that summer,
they would discover a head of red-leaf lettuce
thriving in the corner of their yard.
I don’t know where the rest of my seeds ended up.
There could have been red-leaf lettuce springing up everywhere
from here to San Ysidro that spring,
Imagine some silently slipping past the border patrol into Tijuana!
It’s all just a crapshoot, isn’t it?
– for lettuce and for us…
We seem too random to matter.
We are so remarkable not to.