Orchids Are Sprouting From the Floorboards by Kaveh Akbar
MARGINALIA • SKIP TO THE POEM
Where are you—I’ve been asked that lately, over and over, each time feeling like an affliction. At the elevator, waiting for the numbers to move, knowing I’m too late. In the bathroom, pounding my chest, willing myself not to ululate in agony while they start to clear her things. In the car, inching through traffic, dreading the right turn that will lead us to the crematory chapel.
Each time I try to be here to tell you what happened, I want to be gone again.
When they pushed my grandmother’s body into the big black oven that would turn her to ashes, my sister wasn’t ready. The gasp left her lungs like a gunshot. I gathered her in my arms as she howled, wondering if the shattered pieces I’m embracing were my self, too.
Where are you—when my father put the phone down, his eyes betrayed his mouth that wouldn’t—couldn’t—open. I remember looking at my mother, how her face suddenly forgot how to be a face, as if everything stopped working as they should and just suddenly became one whole muscle writhing in pain. I remember the steaming rice, the hot ginger broth, everything that we will abandon that night.
It’s been twenty days. Earlier today, I was out for lunch and was laughing at some inappropriate joke. I gave my whole being to it without a second thought. When I came home, in the shower, I remember what I have lost.
How do I go on? How do I love myself amidst the grief?
Orchids Are Sprouting From the Floorboards
Orchids are sprouting from the floorboards.
Orchids are gushing out from the faucets.
The cat mews orchids from his mouth.
His whiskers are also orchids.
The grass is sprouting orchids.
It is becoming mostly orchids.
The trees are filled with orchids.
The tire swing is twirling with orchids.
The sunlight on the wet cement is a white orchid.
The car’s tires leave a trail of orchids.
A bouquet of orchids lifts from its tailpipe.
Teenagers are texting each other pictures
of orchids on their phones, which are also orchids.
Old men in orchid penny loafers
furiously trade orchids.
Mothers fill bottles with warm orchids
to feed their infants, who are orchids themselves.
Their coos are a kind of orchid.
The clouds are all orchids.
They are raining orchids.
The walls are all orchids,
the teapot is an orchid,
the blank easel is an orchid,
and this cold is an orchid. Oh,
Lydia, we miss you terribly.
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This poem appeared in Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Kaveh Akbar, published by Alice James Books, 2017. Shared here with profound gratitude.
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