Green Thumbs

Green Thumbs
Toby MacNutt

I remember that day he burst into bloom
in my arms: all at once,
my every sense redolent
with colour, with the crush of delicate petals,
with the impossible scent
of a season worn in flesh.

We’d both known he itched for spring –
his buds scab-like, nubbled and tight.
They tugged distortions in his skin,
streaked already with silver-green stretch marks.
He’s carried them for longer than I’ve known him:
slept out one midsummer eve, between the stones,
woke up mushroom-ringed, palms sap-sticky,
all over smeared with grass stains. Changed.
The leaves didn’t grow in till the following spring.

He blooms only rarely.
I had never seen him blossom;
I’d felt him flush with summer sun,
hazel eyes flashing green, watched him
darken and hollow into autumn,
when the sweet grass and warm salt taste of him
took on a bitter edge, like walnuts or almonds.
(I could not get enough, hungry before winter.)

He bruised like wintergreen, like pine,
pungent beneath my lips and fingers
and wore the stains fading green to brown to gone
in the short days’ half-light.
I could feel the nascent sprouts, still shrouded
beneath his skin, like rows of extra vertebrae,
like peas in pod, like pebbles underwater.
I licked one still buried: he shivered, pressed back
to me for more. They broke the skin in time,
so tender, soft and green between my lips.
Grazed with teeth, their sap was stinging-sweet,
and clear as lymph.

I was holding him one sleepy morning,
his body all green hope – budded tight,
save for his palms, his soles, his scars
like chalk-cut anchors on his chest.
I stroked the lines of him, curve-studded,

And he bloomed.

His skin exhaled a gust of dawn-gold pollen,
my lips and chest and lashes dusted
in the span of one reflexive blink.
He opened a thousand blossoming eyes,
a cascade of tessellating petals
twisting toward me as if to the sun –
straining, calling, dazzling.
I nuzzled one flower, pressed past
its stamens – twisted, curved, alien.
Pistils reached out to tickle my cheeks,
and I breathed him in:
here was his lemon balm of summer,
steeped now in bergamot; there basil,
there peppery nasturtium, copper-salted;
here crocus, sage, honey –
and still beneath all those, his skin,
the musk of morning.

I brought my pollen-streaked face
to his flowered one. I found his lips
(no longer bud-stubbled), kissed them,
tasting at last his nectar,
my ambrosia. I felt him smile,
as he twined around me, pulled me deeper
into his wild garden.

In the summer to come he is plump,
laden with swollen, ripening fruits.
One lies heavy on my tongue,
smooth and shade-cool.
I suck it gently from its stem,
before I take that first succulent bite
and dissolve,
awash in the taste
of our bliss.


Toby MacNutt is an author, dancer, and teacher who lives in Burlington, VT with their partner and an enormous service dog. Their work has recently been published by Strange Horizons and inkscrawl; their debut collection If Not Skin is forthcoming from Aqueduct Press this year. Find out more at or on twitter @tylluan.