The air swelled light
and water, like my mother’s greenhouse.
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
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.
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.