My grandmother told me a story
about an orchid in her garden.
She said the orchid is white,
she said she does not water it.
She does not move it into the sun, or away from the sun,
never from beneath the sprawling clarity of the kitchen window.
I said I don’t understand, she said she only touches the orchid
to finger the weight of its soft, dense petals.
Everywhere she turns now, after fifteen years
in the lush green of her home, there is an orchid.
Some hang suspended from the gnarled branches in her yard.
Some have put down roots in the dark Florida earth, and she
tends to these in a wide brimmed hat,
bending gently to the soil beneath a solitary palm.
These are the orchids which have allowed for her devotion,
yet she chose to tell me about the only one
that receives nothing. I try to make sense:
there are the orchids she must touch to keep alive,
and there is the one that refuses her hands.
Together these hands are all my grandmother has to offer,
but somehow it is nothing for her to fold them together,
to accept the presence of wonder with ease.
She expects the orchid to bloom because by growing,
it has created her faith. How can faith
keep her hands from wringing over what she cannot give
this anomaly of nature? Instead she trusts that her eyes
see what she knows. She looks at this orchid—a glance
and then a glance away. She witnesses a miracle.
But a sense of peace, like the white flower, feels so precarious.
Still the story doesn’t make sense,
and I haven’t seen an orchid since my last visit.
Now I can only watch through the phone as the miracle replaces
the central act of her hand. There in the window
is the orchid’s final reflection, and there is my grandmother,
ending a life she thought went on without her,
just by sitting down to rest.