(13 January 1957 / Chatham, Virginia)

Orchid Anatomy

This evening's study the anatomy of the orchid,
the greenhouse glows—jut of glass at the third story

of the science building—a small, tended jungle
thriving in its humid room. Wearing identical

lab aprons, they lean over the misting table
or peer into the daintier air-orchids

in order to name and sketch the parts,
committing to memory the sepials, inner whorl

of petals, the column where male and female
fuse, and the sticky, stigmatic surface

of the pouting lip where birds, moths,
and bees would land if allowed this sterile

world. Each wall even the vaulted roof
a canvas, all their breathing dissolves

into the ordered atmosphere of this
one, sustained season—until, if seen

from the outside, the glass's weeping would
render them recognizable but changed,

their bodies, braids, aprons, the green leaves running
into a pleasing, impressionistic bleed.

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