We recently published Erin Calabria’s inventive “Seedlings.” Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) This is such an interesting idea, this carrying of seeds and planting them, keeping them safe. What inspired this piece?
My mom has quite the green thumb that I haven’t really inherited, but I’ve always treasured the knowledge she’s passed down to me about plants. At the end of summer, we used to collect the seeds from the dead poppies in her garden, and when I moved to different places, she would give me a phial of those seeds to take with me and scatter there. Recently, I became obsessed with the seed as a symbol. It’s a powerful one – such massive potential contained in such a tiny vessel, a speck of new life that originates in death. As a teenager, I loved Louise Glück’s collection of poems, The Wild Iris, and I’m sure a lot of my obsession draws from the way she writes the speech of flowers, lines like, “[…] whatever / returns from oblivion returns / to find a voice.” There’s also a bit of the film Dogtooth behind this story, as well as a few too many podcasts on cults.
2) The sister never wanted to be safe, you say, and because of this, it seems, she dies. Do you think, though, she was satisfied?
This is such an intriguing question, and one I hadn’t asked myself! The question that I wrestled with the most, and that remains unresolved at the end of the story, is whether the narrator’s consumption of the plant represents an unhealthy, compulsive response to grief that will ultimately result in her own death, or whether the fruit will in fact give her the knowledge she seeks. I’d say that “safe” is the word the girls have at their disposal based on the vocabulary they have been taught, but the word “controlled” would probably be closer to their reality. I do believe that the sister is attempting to impart her knowledge in order to free the narrator, so in that sense, I don’t think the sister can be satisfied until that happens. Whether the narrator will actually be able to attain freedom within the framework constructed around the seeds or whether she has to find it in a different context – that’s another question I still don’t know the answer to. But I’m rooting for her. I hope she grows larger than life.