The Bonsai by Paris Howard
For A.V. Christie
I wish people were more like plants.
You might stir the soil with a finger,
Reaching through it for botanical expertise you don’t have,
Trying to gauge its health,
It’s moisture, whether there’s enough iron,
I had a roommate who mixed her oddly bright menstrual blood
With water in a jar marked “PERIOD”,
Shaking it up like a brilliant cocktail,
And feeding it to the plants sitting around our window,
Who were like small huddled people in varying degrees of ill health,
Sitting around the bright fire of the outdoors
(From which they are excluded).
The bonsai was already dead when she poured
And grew all manner of fungi,
With a trace of the human, having come from
The fruit of her womb, having come from cliché,
Seeming to blur that line,
Vegetal / bloody / brick / lining / pot,
Grew in its root-puddle / wheel-well / unwell home.
Other plants hung on,
The string of pearls becoming plump and happy for a time
As the green beads grew in her mermaid hair like an invitation (anciently telegraphed)
For crushing or biting
(That was very human. A long head of hair, many swoops and orbs, a desire to feel them).
But when you smell the blood in the house,
And the plants are already dead,
You know the loss is of skin.
When my family is dead
There is no feeling for a vibrancy in the roots, deep underground,
Or for a green slickness to the wood, for a hydrophobic or flame-resistant living skin.
There is no limbo from living to gone
Where something might be salvaged with the right compounds.
A light can be dim / sickly / cold / incandescent
But it is either on or off.
Paris Howard is a Berlin-based writer, sex worker and mutual aid worker. She has published essays in Prospero, The Quietus and 3AM Magazine, and poems in Lesbians Are Miracles and Openwork Magazine.