In the City of Philandering Flowerpots

Tara Campbell

              How, exactly, does a flowerpot make love? And how does a flowerpot betray? Technically, a pot is a vessel, able to receive more than one seed at a time. But there is more to philandering than that. There is also an act of seduction, a promise made that this union is special, that this flower and this pot—this particular flower and pot—must be. Perhaps the problem is that the flower misinterprets the pot’s enthusiasm about Now, reading into it a promise of Always. And this is the mark of a philandering pot: the awareness of this disconnect, the capitalization on the haplessness of a flower, for there is little doubt that the flower is smitten, committed root-deep to the flowerpot’s earthy embrace. And isn’t the flower happy? the pot will insist. Look, it’s bright, open, cheerful, completely supported and thriving in the sun. Isn’t this just what the flower wanted? The pot can’t actually see the flower—it doesn’t have eyes—but it can feel vibrations emanating from its roots as they push, explore, plumb the outer limits of the world around them. Where roots meet the inside of the pot, they rest against its cool, dark cheek, curling into the curve. Is the pot to blame that it can’t be infiltrated, that the tiny, reaching mycelia at every root-tip will never penetrate the glazed surface they encounter? It’s not the pot’s fault it’s so well-protected, nor is it the flower’s fault that it wants to dig itself into every pore of the pot’s being. But is it really more of the pot it needs—or simply more? This flower wasn’t meant to live in such limited circumstances, after all. It was meant for so much more than confinement; it must either move on from these fertile beginnings or stay and wither. And who can change this flower’s fate? Who can flip the script and dig it free? You. You are the gardener of souls in the City of Philandering Flowerpots. You are the one who will work your fingers into the soil, levering gently around the edges of the flower’s known world, sliding daylight between root and pot, slowly rocking and rotating this universe, wincing at each little rip—when things have gone this far, roots coiled this deep, there will always be some hurt. But you feel the heft of the roots against the pads of your fingers, feel their compactness, their solidity. They’re ready. There’s nothing left for them in this pot, with its tenuous grip on the flower, so you lift it and carry it toward the hole you’ve already dug in the rich, dark earth. There’s so much more ground to cover out here in the wider world, and this flower has everything it needs to survive. You tip the clump of roots into your palm, press it into its new home. In sunlight, the flower drinks greedily from your watering can. The philandering flowerpot gapes, empty.

Tara Campbell is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, and fiction co-editor at Barrelhouse. She received her MFA from American University. Previous publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, Wigleaf, Jellyfish Review, Booth, Strange Horizons, and CRAFT Literary. She’s the author of a novel, TreeVolution, and four collections: Circe’s Bicycle, Midnight at the Organporium, Political AF: A Rage Collection, and Cabinet of Wrath: A Doll Collection. Connect with her at or on Twitter: @TaraCampbellCom or IG: @thetreevolution.