Josefina Diaz

The air swelled light

and water, like my mother’s greenhouse.

An orchid

breathed, I strained

Her petals poured out

like milk in the morning,

the heart and juice of a young coconut.

They stretched and curled

on sepals, drooping,


curved lips red.

Red as the sash of the Spaniard

who ravished

my great-grandmother, the wound pulsing

from her bolo knife, the mud

on his grave.

Red as the bayonet

of the soldier from Japan, the one

that pierced my aunt’s baby girl; red

as her own

hands and blade. Red as the mat

where an American smothered

the cries of my cousin, seized her. Red

as the sun pooling

in Manila Bay.


She’s a product

of the tropics, the gardener offered. Exotic.

Snagged her

at a cheap price, he boasted.

She’s easy, doesn’t need much

water. This hybrid’s been perfected

through generations of breeding. 


The gardener’s hands were chapped

and scarred. Black soil

lodged in every crease.


I know, I answered.

My mother grows them at home.


Phalaenopsis is a genus of orchid that is native to the Philippines.