how an orchid is made to look like sex, or
specifically, like the tachinid fly
who has landed on a leaf to flash
her private parts in the sun, opening
and closing so the light
catches. No wonder her hapless mate
must ravish the flower whose petals
are extended wings, barred yellow
and red-brown, stigma reflecting the sunlight.
Some orchids dance. Some reward
a bee with priceless perfume that lures
sweet attention. So what if I sweep up
my hair to show my neck, so what
if someone begins to kiss it?
Consider the bowerbird, jewelling
his nest with sapphire. Ask the two snakes braiding
their muscled lengths. See how God is in love
with sex, and how we are made
in her image! Like a lovesick ungulate,
haven’t you forgotten to eat for weeks?
Have you heard the barred owls scream
all night? Seen fireflies flashing their silent sirens?
The woodcock spirals higher and higher, then
plummets in sharp zigzags, wind
whistling through his wings like a song
(Song of Songs: honey and milk under your tongue).
Nothing, after all, is solid—atoms flying
in all directions, ocean currents plunging
into themselves. Why not two bodies
by firelight, stunned by their bare
skin, their own flickering sudden
perfection? No hellfire here.
When galaxies collide, there is no wreck,
no blazing crash of suns and moons. Just
a rushing together, a folding in—
and a heat beyond orchids—
birthing, baptizing heat.
Descending Killington Peak
We step down from darkly clustered spruce
into birch—pink and white,
bark peeled into sunsets, hanging
like sloughed skin. And though it is raining,
it is as if the sun came out—golden
leaves carpeting the forest floor, drifting
from over our heads—like a shattered sun
had fallen in shards through the gray
sky to glow close around us.
In this kind of quiet, within this deep
shine that comes from somewhere
just beneath the surface on which we live out
our lives, always in those spaces I am
searching for traces—from tree
to tree, in the rose-gold light—some
glimpse of insight, some sign that says this is the turning
or this is how you’ll know—
omen or rune, intimation that this is the sweet beginning, this is how it will end. But
there is only the sound of our walking
muffled by what has fallen, layers
of glimmer and decay. You take it
for what it is, saying, in winter here it seems you can see forever: the snow and birches blending, the trunks’ black eyebrows floating in the blank white.
Hannah Fries‘ poems have appeared in The Cortland Review, upstreet, and Calyx.