By Cesca Ledesma
A poem about the ghost orchid
What is it like to wake
in the June/July heat, no leaves to protect you,
mouth already clutching water for your once-a-year visit.
You wake, raindrops dripping down your parched throat
and roots hooked onto the rough bark of cypress trees,
softening its surface, somehow, with the curves of your tendrils.
I like to think of your arrival like falling in love
on a hot afternoon, relearning the body of the land
that birthed you. The dips and divots of a waterlogged marsh.
What is it be like, to be cared for before you even arrive,
the Everglade air holding moisture in its mouth as it waited,
Ceratobasidium fungi wrapping your root tips around their base,
slipping sugar in through your feet.
And what is it like to fall asleep,
dreaming for the humid folds of next summer to hold your petals open,
for the floods to nourish you once more,
what is it like to sleep with this longing
and not wake up, the borders of your sanctuaries drawn only in cartography,
doing little to keep the robbers out.
Domestic shrubs uncontrolled without the fires,
working with the suburbs to siphon your water,
the sun drying your roots before the bloom.
And when you are gone, where will you go?