by Noah Baldino
the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants, Harvard Museum of Natural History
The ovaries, when splayed, resemble
sliced tomatoes. Or rose windows,
each geometry precise enough
to praise. I want to press my tongue
against the bloodroot petal, to run
its stamen along my slick shelf of
teeth like a man might with a wheat stalk.
Four times so far other tourists
have taken me for a gallery
attendant. In the glass, a slow-
sidling crimson spreads over my own
skewed reflection: a hesitant
teen in a Harvard hoodie, the fifth,
leans in to ask, Excuse me, sir?
Are they really glass?—a testament
to how my binder encases
my breasts, my faith in the plum yew’s fruit-
shorn frenzy. Dense clusters teeming
with their separate blossoms, any
unknowing eye might think they were
living. But I know the lilac’s tell:
two blemishes, bulbous where some
hot glass mis-dripped, then caught forever
in the filament. Sometimes, I think
I’ll wake to find they’ve finally
trickled off me in the night, pooled
molten down the bed and gathered
back again. I might thrash off both breasts
in a sleepless fit, or could unfurl
my clit like a pollen basket passed
from a honeybee’s hind legs
to the hive. It makes its secret
seen. I can only answer yes. Yes,
they’re real. I mean, they’re really glass
You could snap a stem between fingers
with such a slight force, one stark blink—
the flies flitting the gallery would fear
the weight of their own landing,
thick wings rapt still. When the public,
in their distressed astonishment,
demanded to know how the Blaschkas
transported the models without
a fracture in even one pistil,
Leopold Blaschka revealed his own
elaborate process: pack each
flower tightly in its cardboard
cradle, then strap them down with strong wire
to restrict movement, and set each, at last,
in a wooden box wrapped with burlap.
They drove them straight from Manhattan
in two hearses. The drivers, of course,
wore black suits. Onlookers parted
to allow their small procession past.
I like it here, with everyone
focused on the flowers. Hunched, kneeling,
as if suspicious, still doubting,
the teen eyes two tiny zinnias,
then moves on to another case.
I’ve seen many leave unsatisfied.
They can’t bear to be partitioned—
how can I blame them? Someone made these
with their body. They let their breath
unspool to form each impossible
bud, crafted every flower’s fold,
then waited on the heat to break to
hold just one, wearing special gloves.
Wouldn’t anyone wish for just one lie
among a garden this precise?
One daisy swapped out in secret, switched
with a common courtyard flower,
now waiting for someone to notice
its wilt while its counterparts keep
all their glisten. It does seem to me
true punishment: never to change.
Unflinching forever. Sometimes, near
closing, when the hall becomes quiet,
I really do believe they’re real.
This poem was originally published in POETRY.
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