Sci Art Science Poetry

Wildness at the Window

When I was small,
My family planted a row
of Aloe
under our large windows 
that faced the deep green
of native plants in the vacant lot.
They planted eight frost-green stars.
Ornamental. Low maintenance. 
Their saw-edged arms lengthened over time. 

Our neighbour would often
call to ask for some aloe. 
Her husband's stomach ailed him again. 
And again. 
And again. 
Each time my father would
slice a fleshy leaf from the bunch and
wrap the oozing end in tinfoil for collection.
Gel smeared the knife blade,
a lingering scent as cutting as the aloe’s toothed edges. 
I tasted it
The bitterness was far too alarming for my childhood palette to tolerate twice.

The aloe multiplied from
the central largest plant.
Under and around it clustered clones.
White-spotted leaves
peeking from deep red mulch.

When I was old enough to
carry our garbage out to the street,
I passed 
a lizard,
that day as vibrant green as the aloe blade it climbed.
Fragile fingers gripped the smooth tough skin 
heedless of my closeness so early
in the cool morning.
Its vulnerable tongue, 
a flash of pink, 
lapping up dew drops. 

The aloe grew
one branch each.
At the top, a cone of flower buds
They bloomed from the bottom up.
Their petals parted coyly to reveal 
secret tips of stigma, stamen orange with pollen. 

When I was tall enough to
be mistaken for an adult,
a hummingbird swept in with a drone.
Green-backed, iridescent. 
Hovered and wavered. 
Slender beak penetrated a flower for a momentary feast. 
Then another
Then another. 
Before swirling from sight. 
That summer, I watch the aloes for hours. Ears pricked to the hummingbird’s buzz.
Waiting for another glimpse of 
wildness at the window. 

Aloe plants (Aloe barbadensis miller) truly are wonderful. While many of us may first think of their cosmetic and pharmaceutical uses (which are legion), my fond memories are more intimate and revolve around the things that thrived because of the plants.

I’d toyed with the idea of naming this poem “Ecosystem Services” since that’s essentially what it’s about (even if the ecosystem in question is in a planter). However, after some discussion, I realized that title would break the poem.

I wanted to write an Earth Day poem about a thing to be cherished. Despite my feelings of frustration and powerlessness about various environmental and climate issues, I can still make the choice to talk about the beauty of the natural world and the ways that we can benefit from its gifts.

Happy Earth Day.

No Comments

Leave a Reply