Orchid Machinations

If I were a plant I’d be sporiferous – a fern, a moss, a liverwort – bearing airy offspring – nomad windtreaders.

If I were a plant I’d be the orchid Angraecum sesquipedale of Madagascar that has a foot-long spur at the back of its flower – a nectary harboring sweetness in its secret depths. Happening on the Star Orchid in 1862, Darwin predicted the existence of a moth with a proboscis long enough to reach the nectar. Forty years later, Rothschild and Jordan discovered the nocturnal sphinx-moth, with its coiled foot-long tongue.

If I were a machine I’d sound the weird throat-songs of fabulous creatures – minotaurs, mermaids, manticores, humans . . .

If I were a plant I’d be a flamboyant magnolia, choreographing ostentatious dances of seduction with lusty beetles for the last 100 million years.

If I were a machine I’d be a telephone that lets the dead call the living (collect, of course).

If I were a machine I’d play impossible music. Name your impossibility – I’ll compose its music.

If I were a machine I’d be a camera photographing the dark, picturing the darknesses we can see as well as the darknesses we can’t.

If I were a machine I’d be an elevator that stops between floors, at the shadowy interstitial stories squeezed out of our fluorescent realities.

If I were a machine I’d be an optical instrument – a microscope, a telescope, an X-ray; a hydroscope, a periscope, a stroboscope – magnifying the minuscule and the distant, penetrating opacities and aquacities, looking around corners, capturing motions too swift for the eye.

If I were a plant I’d be a bulb – a tulip or an onion, a lily or a garlic, an agapanthus or a narcissus – a multi-layered flowering, a stratified unfolding.

If I were a plant I’d be tangled seaweed on the Sargasso Sea – the Bermuda Triangle’s unblinking eye turning clockwise languorously.

If I were a machine I’d simulate other machines – blooming machines, twittering machines, new-wave machines, spanking machines, kissing machines, whirling-dervish machines, midnight machines, perversing machines, dirtying machines, greening machines, mimicking machines, . . .

If I were a machine I’d follow the alchemical transmutations of grass, transforming sun, wind, and thunder, breath, shit, and death into a spreading greenness.

If I were a plant I’d be a mistletoe, a parasitic shrub which (most lovers don't know this) is a fatal poison.

If I were a plant I’d be a fiery hot pepper – a piquant capsicum burning the tongue.

If I were a plant I’d be rootless arctic moss on windblown tundra rock drawing rare water from the gelid air.

If I were a plant I’d be a 3,000-year-old gingko. (The forgetful eat gingko leaves to help them remember. What do gingkos remember? 200 million years ago, Fabrosauruses and Vulcanodons cooled off in their great shadows. In 1815, Goethe wrote a love poem titled “Ginkgo Biloba.” In Hiroshima, a gingko survived the atomic bomb, which destroyed the temple the hardy tree was shading.)

If I were a machine I’d be an epiphany-camera freeze-framing those arresting instants that suddenly change everything. My silvered film would catch those catastrophic kisses of the real that stop time for an instant – before turning one’s world upside down.

If I were a machine I’d be a quirky clock registering the fluctuating feeling of time – sometimes flying, sometimes crawling, sometimes stopping altogether like an astonished heart.

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