The Witness

In the sun, just past the shadow
of the Natural History Museum
sits a white shopping bag of orchids.
Robbed of their containers,
roots reaching like grey worms after rain.
I think of the ghosts
of the scientific explorers
who must roam the halls that lay
behind those nineteen inches of granite
to be forever near their prey.

They must think back to a time
before malarial dreams swept away their lives
in jungles they were not suited for.
Linen clad days spent pointing up trees
where native guides would climb
to stuff plants into cotton bags.
Their parasitic nature was loved,
coddled and named like a newborn.
Thirteen letters in Latin that seemed too much
for a fragile one who would burn in the light.

Eventually they grow and turn inward,
nurturing leaf over bloom.
An act of strength mistaken for death
in a store somewhere nearby.
Bringing an Uptown salesman to abandon them
in an unmarked bag on the corner of Columbus.
Walking away as if leaving a crime scene
brushing evidence from soiled hands,
turning chin over shoulder to see if someone
will know what to do with the captives now freed.

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