Heterophyllus

Philibert Commerçon: Buginvillæa, Genera Plantarum (A.L. de Jussieu, 1789); and Jeanne Baret, genus Baretia (Turraea)

Heterophyllus: having the foliage leaves of more than one form on the same plant or stem (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

I think about those fused blooms, pink and white,
deep in their pockets of green; how they papered

an entire side of my childhood home that is gone.
How they rustled like whorls of dry parchment

in summer, and slicked themselves into tongues,
the better to taste the true vernacular of each

punishing monsoon. A woman botanist first
observed them: she, companion and lover

to the official scientist on a voyage circumnavigating
the world. Later records show she disguised herself

as a man, as no woman had been allowed on this journey.
There is a print of her in striped pantaloons, loose

jacket, a jaunty cap. She was of course discovered.
And made to pay the cost. To mark all that I’ve also

lost and gained, I wanted cuttings to plant
along one side of my fence. I remember

their tensile stems spiked with thorns. How I sat
as a bob-haired girl on the porch, spitting

watermelon seeds at the earth. Years later,
asked if I would give up the thing I loved best

for a man: something in me tore and quivered.
Something in me adhered, even as it uprooted.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

2 Comments


  1. Well, you couldn’t put that word anywhere but the title! Like how you have zipped about in time and place in this one.

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  2. Marly – this poem surprised me too. I had not intended, for instance, to write about the botany parts. Somewhere along the way to the poem, it happened.

    Reply

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