Moth Orchid at the Botanical Gardens
The grammar and language of art can be taught, but it is quite diﬀerent with its poetry.
Henry Peach Robinson, Idealism, Realism, Expressionism, 1896.
I don’t know why this morning matters, awake so much of the night worrying over what loves me, what not. I only opened a tiny slice of the camera’s aperture, so caught by the orchid’s pink lip, its quill curl, its petals half-swerved as if a moth, white as the common cabbage butterfly I’ve known, eased through the air. “Gorgeous,” my friend wrote, the orchid digital I sent him, called Moth, a crater in the pixels, all illumination in the hot house background of the botanical gardens I mused and blacked until I could orchestrate the photograph into something other than Moth, maybe, moon or, better yet, the teeth from the remains of the six-year-old the anthropologists call Naledi, little star. The enamel’s like ours, but the child is not quite human in some eyes, her child pearls fixed deep into the earth on a cavern ledge, arrayed there 20,000 years ago by what we don’t know. Now this century, a small woman’s hand has plucked Naledi’s teeth from the earth, from this cave called Rising Star. Maybe it was some earth fracture the child catapulted through- or, maybe better, mourned, she was ferried down the stone maze in love. The orchid barely kindles by seed, but even it is not omnipotent. Too dark for this, I think, to tell the myth of a boy dismantled rib by rib into an orchid flower that feeds upon the air. I remember how I dialed the camera’s exposure back as if I would take the picture wrong, adjusted shadow and contrast until a satellite bud leaked out beside its moth moon. There is a moth I’ve heard of that gathers to the cavernous dark and not to light, tissue its wings that plummet into dreams and half-histories. Oh, this story is too complex now: a cabbage moth riding out the dark that I composed and a “flower moon” a hundred million years old dusting me with feather seeds I cannot see. The moth orchid breaks into pieces and birds fly them to root in lonely places. Or they plunge into everything I think beautiful.
This poem and photograph will appear in Kathryn Winograd's book, This Visible Speaking: Catching Light Through The Camera’s Eye (Humble Essayist Press) March 2024.
Kathryn Winograd is a Colorado photo and poetry geek whose doodle spends much of its time with her traipsing along rivers and through mountain meadows to find the images that spark memories and poems. Her poetry has been published in journals as disparate as The New Yorker and Cricket Magazine for Kids and has won the Colorado Book Award in Poetry. “Retired,” Kathy has taught poetry for over 45 years (Yikes) to everyone from wide-eyed four year olds to Supreme Court judges and MFA graduate students.
The Ekphrastic Review
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