They said that if I couldn’t envisage a family
I should acquire a dog, and if I couldn’t handle a dog
I should give a cat a home, and if I couldn’t stomach a cat
a plant would do the trick, a thing alive but so far down
the evolutionary chain as to have little claim on my attention
while still allowing me to reserve an option on nurture.
Countless plants, budded under a bad star,
came to terminate their existences here,
drying and shrivelling in undersized pots, starved
for want of a look, the brush of fingers on stem or leaves.
Until this turned up. A cutting from an optimist,
it sits today in the self-same pot in which it arrived,
fruit of eight winters of disregard, feeding on famished earth
and what light it can glean from my northern window.
After several years, its foolhardy persistence
caused me to take a second look. It grew.
Each May it would stop me in my tracks
by springing its pendant flowers on me,
pearlised stars, small and slight as snowflakes,
glistening on a fantail of dark foliage—
showers of brazen spade leaves flashing
black velvet to the light, deep red to the shade.
Mesmerised, I would sit and stare, wanting to stroke
the silken teguments, each with a green eye at its core.
Fine thread veins radiated to pink-speckled stems
and all sprawled wildly, a luxuriant Medusa
on the edge of the mantle-piece, luring me to wonder
at its resolute cycle, its blatant refusal to wilt,
its snatching of life from thin air,
from the stone housing its roots.