Nomi Stone :: “Little Starts”

My wife secretly took
a bunch of cuttings this fall
while I stood watch: two leaves

of a succulent from IKEA, a tiny nub
from the Milkcrate Café on Girard,
and that other dangler

at the boring party in the room with the coats.
It sent out two beet-red roots! When it did, my
wife yelled out to me just before breakfast: Wife!

The terrible part is holding your nerve,
and leaving it on the sill alone
until it has lost all its inner water. Only

then it sends out roots
like a wandering mouth.
How careful plants are with each other:

when the deer feed
on the branches of the beech trees,
the leaves of their neighbors

become bitter. Little start,
breath-start, it is so hard
to do everything over from nothing.

My wife came by herself
to this country for me. She didn’t even have
her winter boots. She feeds

the tiny starts blood
from her own Mooncup, root-
bright, beet-bright.

From our bed, I hear the squelch
before she carries it, carefully,
to the sill in the sun.

Originally published in Ecotone Magazine.


Nomi Stone (left) and Rose Skelton (right)

Poet and anthropologist Nomi Stone is the author of three books, most recently the poetry collection Kill Class (Tupelo, 2019), finalist for the Julie Suk Award, and the ethnography Pinelandia: An Anthropology and Field Poetics of War and Empire, finalist for the Atelier award (University of California Press, 2022). Her poems recently appear in The Atlantic, POETRY Magazine, American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, The Nation, The New Republic, and elsewhere. She is an Assistant Professor of poetry at UT Dallas and co-founder, along with her wife, Rose Skelton of Field Studio: A Place for Writers Online and On the Isle of Mull.