Nodes of Growth

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. 

About this Poem

“‘Nodes of Growth’ is one of my pandemic poems. I developed a small obsession with an orchid that had been given to me by a friend, Maggie, who hosted a wonderful party in my honor. It was a gift for my fiftieth birthday in September 2019. A few months later, during lockdown, I was away from my home. My neighbor, Joan, kindly watered my plants weekly. The orchid was dormant. But I asked her to continue watering it. Just when I thought it was dead, it bloomed. It was gorgeous! It proved everyone wrong! (Most people believe they cannot grow orchids.) Joan sent me pictures. Each one seemed triumphant, more beautiful than its predecessor. I shared this observation with the West Chester University Poetry Center's C.R.A.F.T.: Poetry and Creative Arts Festival’s 2021 Keynote speaker, Molly Peacock. She explained the concept of “nodes of growth” to me. It seemed to resonate perfectly with themes that were emerging in my work. This poem began in my journal; it is free verse primarily because I wanted to focus on figurative language and shifts in meaning from one stanza to the next as the poem’s narrative evolves.”
—Cherise Pollard