Rose of Jericho
I’m not sure about this gift. This tangle
of dried roots curled into a fist. This gnarl
I’ve let sit for weeks beside the toaster
and cookbooks on a bed of speckled granite.
What am I waiting for? Online I find
Rose of Jericho prayers and rituals for safe birth,
well-being, warding off the evil eye.
At first I thought I’d buy some white stones,
a porcelain bowl. But I didn’t and I didn’t.
I don’t believe in omens. This still fist
of possibility all wrapped up in itself.
There it sat through the holidays, into the New Year.
Through all the days I’ve been gone. Dormant.
But today, in an inch of water,
out of curiosity, I awakened
the soul of Jericho. Limb by limb it unfolded
and turned moss green. It reminded me
of the northwest, its lush undergrowth,
how twice despite the leaden clouds,
the rain, I found happiness there.
From tumbleweed to lush fern flower,
reversible, repeatable. And what am I
to make of this? Me, this woman who doesn’t
believe. Doesn’t take anything on faith. I won’t
let it rot. I’ll monitor the water level. Keep the mold
at bay. I tend things, but I do not pray.
Copyright © 2017 by Cindy Veach. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 8, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
“The Rose of Jericho plant, also called resurrection plant, has spawned many religious legends and is considered a talisman for health, wealth, luck, and more. Consequently, this little plant carries a heavy load. I’ve always found it curious how humans yearn to know the future, wish for more than this and believe in miracles. In this poem the speaker confronts the plant and it confronts her. While she is amazed at its ability to transform itself, for her it only resurrects place-based memories. Still, she feels she owes it something and promises to care for it.”