Ellie Francis Douglass

Anthropomorphizing the Orchid

Lowering my nose to the waxy petals, I’m kissing you goodnight
in the hospital again. Your lips smelled faintly of sour milk,
those protein shakes.

I couldn’t hug you; you were delicate.

Our last night, I called the nurse every hour
to give you morphine. I tend the orchid too,
feel the thirsting moss around its roots.

Watering it, I’m raising the oxygen mask
to wet your tongue with a sponge. I wonder why
I thought it mattered that your mouth was dry
when, the hope was, you couldn’t feel anything.

Rotating the orchid in the sun, I remember hugging you,
already a gleaming sculpture, before the young man
in a pilot’s jacket took you away in a bag.

I breathed relief. Dead was better than diapers,
cups held up to your mouth, being turned in your bed,
your legs withered stems, knees bulbous.
Not to mention the pain.

“What’s the point,” you said, lip quaking, maybe two days before.
It wasn’t a question. I told you I understood.

But the orchid doesn’t know any better. It is not degraded
by dependence. Its thick leaves reach, a child asking
to be held.


Ellie Francis Douglass is from Texas and recently graduated from the MFA program at Oregon State University. Another one of her elegies appears in the Missouri Review Online. Her favorite sweet is dark chocolate, hands down. Visit her at elliefrancisdouglass.com, email her at elliefdouglass@gmail.com, or follow her on twitter: @elliefdouglass.

 … return to Issue 7.3 Table of Contents.

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