Veronica and I buy plants for our office
but abandon them in the faculty lounge over Christmas.
Realistically, no one will water them there, either,
but at least they’ll have sunlight.
Back in our cave of a workspace, I clean the cucumbers
out of the minifridge, where they’ve gone moldy
and, more distressingly, soupy. There’s real soup, too—
an odd plastic sheathe of something peppy and organic
which has been there a long time and belongs to no one.
Blessedly, it doesn’t smell. We don’t ask how.
The last denizens of the office also left us ice trays
even though I don’t think this fridge makes ice. Then again,
we’ve never tried - always left the tray empty, its pockets lined up
like sockets for teeth. I pick dead leaves from our plants
and think, these are like teeth, too. Plucked and dry.
It’s a sobering thought but I’m not sure why.
Now I trek our two small pots of two small plants
down two dark flights of stairs, and there
I leave them: ledged and hedged by the window,
flooded in the hope that the water will last them
after the water runs out. They look festive, there,
against the snow. They look as though they hardly mind
this weak December sun, their first in weeks.
Veronica and I are likewise starved for light,
but we have the luxury of legs, of exit, and we gulp
the sweet winter air into our lungs as we leave.
(We know, too, what our plants cannot:
that we must be more careful with our leaves;
the small stems of tradescantia will grow again in January,
but what is plucked from our mouths
cannot be regrown when it is lost.)
my own ghost through the foliage
The jalapeño is doing badly,
again, but I might be projecting.
The aloe leans. The cactus grows
one terrifying limb—too bright,
too new—which stretches,
but finds no heat, no light.
Its wan little hands find only
a wash of cold, rolling in
as if all the windows are open.
This house is old; it keeps
nothing out. We shiver—me, the aloe,
the small ball cactus with its pleats
as deep and sharp and a schoolgirl’s skirt.
The jalapeño suffers, maybe, most of all:
brown, and sickly, and underwatered,
probably. The poor brown sticks
of its self remind me how little I know—
about growing things, about things that grow.
For instance, did you know that jalapeños
are constantly plagued by aphids, and turn red
when they are overripe? Did you know
jalapeño plants, like mine, aren’t intended to last
the winter? Martina laughs when I say
I still have it, this gift from last spring
when there was no more room in her garden
but what else would I have? What else
would fill my poor old broken shelves,
paint peeling, water pooling, sinking quietly
into the parquet below? What else
would remind me to lean towards, towards,
despite the cold, despite the draught?
What life is this in which we die so quietly,
so thoroughly, so close to the window
and yet with so little light?
DESSA BAYROCK lives in Ottawa with two cats and a variety of succulents, one of which is growing at a frankly alarming rate. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in IDK Magazine, Cotton Xenomorph, and Spy Kids Review, among others. You can find her, or at least more about her, at dessabayrock.com or on Twitter at @YoDessa.