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, 
possession, 
                           spiritual
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.