for Molly Peacock

My mother thinks she cannot grow 
orchids: the initial blooms shrivel,  
turn to dust on the window ledge.  
The stalk, once green, becomes 
a dry stick, soon appraised  
for the same value she gives  
every crinkled brown leaf: 

She cut it off. 

She did not know to wait 
to examine turgid base leaves,  
jungle vibrant, roots brimming  
the pot’s rim, testing the drainage holes,  
seeking sun, trickling water. 

It must work harder now 
to bloom once the stem  
has been removed. 

At middle age, I appreciate 
the orchid’s beauty: its shy blooms 
burst from a dead stick: 
nodes of growth emerge  
as tender youth did once. 

I got my first orchid at fifty. I was 
unable to accept the end of my body’s  
usefulness. The aura of attraction 
shriveled, I secretly  
cheered for the orchid  
whose tender nodes explode 
unexpected, fighting 
against our assumption that  
beauty only bursts from  
the sweet young green.  

Copyright © 2024 by Cherise Pollard. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 9, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

He sits, silent, 
no longer mistaking the cable 
news for company—

and when he talks, he talks of childhood, 
remembering some slight or conundrum 
as if it is a score to be retailed

and settled after seventy-five years.

Rare, the sudden lucidity 
that acknowledges this thing
that has happened
to me… 

More often, he recounts 
his father’s cruelty
or a chance deprived 
to him, a Negro
                  under Jim Crow. 

Five minutes ago escapes him 
as he chases 1934, unaware

of the present beauty out the window,
the banks of windswept snow—

or his wife, humming in the kitchen, 
or the twilit battles in Korea, or me

when he remembers that I am his son.

This condition—with a name that implies 
the proprietary, 
and otherwise—

as if it owns him,
which it does.

Copyright © 2024 by Anthony Walton. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 8, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

In diagrams, there’s one on either side of 
            the uterus. But they float
            around the coral pouch, tangle up, 
                        the surgeon said.
Cilia sway like seagrass, 
            the tube wall pulsing with waves
            of hairs to push the genetic scribble
                        through, out—
Though not for me. I think of prior women knifed open
            to first acquire this knowledge.
            I think of vespers
                        mumbled over their noses and cheeks
while the last few stars
            of thought punctuated the mind.
            Blood smelled the same in the sixteenth 
                        century. Rain on flagstones, clay and spit.
Gabriele Falloppio also studied the labyrinth 
            of the ear. Held the tiny drum
            lightly in his palm. But the pink string 
                        I saw in my surgeon’s photograph
resembles a trumpet—the pipes
            pumped as though by a mouth.
            Pucker, kiss.                 Tuba uteri.
                        We say tube. Flared opening releasing 
a breath of something. A legislated
            cell. There are raw edges to everything
            if you look
                        closely. My stowaway was
a silkworm caught in the grass, gathering 
            red fibers in a squashed hell.
            My forehead cold. And my hands. My face
                        a wooden figurehead growing mold
fixed to the bow of a smashed ship.    
            Nautical needle spinning between 
            North and South. Where was I? Where
                        was I? Pinned and saved. In the photo,
the surgeon’s tool lifts the strand: 
            it bulges like a snake.
            Cracks caulked with blood. Ripping open.
                        The organs around what’s missing and their red
verbena will shift in the cavity. Are shifting now. The veined 
            purse settles. Absence filling in.
            I do not feel
                                    that work except that

I do. 

Copyright © 2024 by Tyler Mills. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 7, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.