Mustard Seed

by Joann Renee Boswell

Blue bowl filled with mustard seeds

he was accustomed to building
layers of interpretation around each
s     e     e     d
of truth, as small as a mustard’s beginning
he grew them into mountains
of certainty, each measure of dirt
equated with the root, logically twisted,
braiding wisdom with bias—
masterful creation to prove
one’s ranking on the obstacle
course of true faith

she grew up on that mountain,
sod compacted under male heels
whose boots bore the tread mark
Juggernaut of Holiness

she fixed her eyes on her own feet,
small compared to others’ prints fencing
her in for fear she’d stray
without patronizing trail markers
declaring prepackaged instructions and
conclusions for each verse:

whatever is true
whatever is honorable
whatever is just, pure, lovely,
commendable, if there is any
excellence, dwell on these things—
simple elegance shone until
a great cloud of embellishments
r    o    s    e

the basics (no drinking
alcohol or smoking cigarettes, refrain
from swearing and sex)

led to core additions (subtract
people who party from your life, read
your Bible, pray every day, only listen
to Christian music, PG movies are okay
sometimes, Veggie Tales is cool, side-
hugs save, eye contact ruins lives)

and then the summit enhancements (sleep
less, convert wardrobe to prayer
closet, never leave
church alone with a member
of the opposite sex, dating is
divorce practice, dress attractively,
but not slutty, don’t draw attention
to yourself, but don’t stay single:
you must populate God’s army)

and the trappings grew—
the din muffled whatever was pure
in her virginal reading, praiseworthy
admonitions out-shouted the original
paragon for years, but reverberations
echoed up from the seed into her soles,
and she took up a shovel

labeled Delinquent, she tunneled,
severing tethers claiming equality
with their source, set them free like
helium balloons which have lost
their weight

so she moved the mountain,
with the faith of a trowel,
to find the seed—
carefully eradicated debris,
displayed source, dusting it off
periodically to remove freshly
accumulated assumptions

Joann Boswell
Joann Renee Boswell is a teacher, mother, photographer and poet currently living in Camas, WA with her partner and three children. Before having children, Joann taught and directed high school theatre in Washington state. Joann loves rainy days filled with coffee, books, handholding, moody music and sci-fi shows. Some places she’s been published include VoiceCatcher, Western Friend, The Martian Chronicle, otoliths and Mothers Always Write. Her first book of poetry, Cosmic Pockets, is expected May 2020 through Fernwood Press. You can read more at


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