I might have been a botanist

if they had let me stay inside
the elementary school biology class,
if I had not been sent to the chapel

to kneel when my parents worried
I was not ready for the reproductive
habits of flora and fauna

as it is, exile did what it does:
made the forbidden more ripe
and so I became a poet instead

when I finally got to see the parts,
it was everything my parents feared—
I was seduced

More, I said
Tell me your name, I said
without the restraint of a scientist,

the garden was left to green harder
and harder—formed lush and private
in my mind, where there is never any drought

the penchant trees, their xylem and phloem:
one path to carry water, another to descend
with sugar for the root

black walnut’s soapy smell
and its many-chambered pith, which is enough
to know it is not the tree of heaven

flora climbs my throat, no wonder
I wake up with new roots—datura, acer negundo
in my mouth

O purple stalk, my teacher now—
yesterday you were a sign of life
but today, so I’ve learned, you are loosestrife

and I am ripping you out
before you choke
bee balm, ironweed, boneset

O anther
O stigma
O filament

don’t be mistaken:
I was loved so carefully
so tediously

like a daughter
they only forgot to ask
what I am a daughter of

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