The Macrocosm of the American Houseplant

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Contributor: Jessi Walker

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The Mississippi flows on the undercarriages
of the leaves of vascular plants.
A perfect system of tributaries
pumps treasure chests up from the dirt
to be made into plant-flavored Karo syrup.
Every leaf.
But that’s not the only exciting thing about plants.
You might find aphids and caterpillars
chewing, biting and sucking
sugarygreen juice
maybe closing their eyes so as not to be distracted from the tang.

Until it’s through being a home
or a support system
or a progenitor
or dinner
the leaf will be a leaf until its leaf work is done.
Then the river ebbs, dries up
the leaf curls
crumbles and decays
turning to dirt and nourishing the ground for the next leaves to grow.

It doesn’t attempt to stop the passage of time
and it doesn’t cling,
screaming, adamant
that it’s still just as pretty or that
it used to be
as vibrant as the newer leaves
or cry when it’s no longer the center of attention.

It won’t yell
or slap you and accuse you of looking elsewhere.
It doesn’t apologize for being what it is
or lament being what it is no longer.

Go ahead.
Run your finger along the stem and lift it,
feel how it gently pushes back against you.
Water it and watch it
as it becomes taut,
urgency in its veins
cargo ships launching.
Look at it and contemplate
all the silent pounding
inside that lonely orchid
or arrowhead vine by the sliding glass door.

Or you could read a book.
Or go for a walk.
Or go sit in the grass with your mouth shut,
and listen to the conversations of birds for an hour,
breathing the mineral pungency of fresh-turned earth crumbling under your bare toes.
Cheer up: pretty soon, you’ll be dirt too.

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Jessi Walker studies creative writing and teaches at Auburn University.


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