Keeping Things Alive

It is December, and our window ledge

is lined with plants—


bamboo shoots, devil’s ivy, an elephant bush,

two cacti, one orange, one yellow, and


a large rhododendron shadowing two, new

sprouts. We’ve collected these


over two-and-a-half years, purchased

new pots and soil, tried different windows


and porches to identify the right combination

of direct and ambient light.


We thought we had the balance

figured out. But as I put away the watering can


just before bed on an unusually

cold night, I notice the fishbowl


beside the plants appears still and vacant.

Our deep blue Betta, hidden from view,


takes minutes to find, motionless, belly

up inside his toy castle. I pause.


My eyes fill gently like

the trays beneath the pots, like


the fishbowl itself. I am alone in this

moment— you have been asleep for hours.


I set down the watering can, leave

the dead fish, write a note on the fridge


for you to find in the morning.

All I can manage are


the heaviest words I’ve ever scribbled—

I’m afraid all the plants are dying.


Katie Budris holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Roosevelt University. Currently an instructor at Rowan University and Community College of Philadelphia, she serves as Editor in Chief of Glassworks Magazine. Her poems have appeared in over a dozen journals, most recently Border Crossing, Outside In, Temenos, and the anthology Crossing Lines (Main Street Rag). Her debut chapbook, Prague in Synthetics, is now available from Finishing Line Press. See more of her work at: