by Richard Schiffman
Called variously a corn plant, a ribbon plant, a dragon tree—
a common ornamental, you’ve seen it by the water-cooler
at the office with sprays of floppy sow’s-ear leaves
veined green and golden green. It does not need much sun.
Forget to water, it won’t complain. It will sit where you put it
and stay there for years. You can repot it or not,
it doesn’t care.
I long ago installed this humble migrant from South America
in a corner of my living room, and ignored it
as some clueless rich ignore their maids.
It thrived, if not on love, then on the public air
with a vegetable persistence that should have amazed—
life clinging to life a hemisphere from home,
a dragon flashing blades of emerald flame.
But the dragon stayed dormant in my imagination
until one day a floral stalk appeared.
The apartment reeked of paradise for two weeks running.
Nectar oozed from pinprick blooms, a dusky honey
not made for me. I stirred it in my morning tea. Amazed—
yes finally amazed, not just at the odd felicity
of a common houseplant—
but at my own unearned complicity, to be
the sole and privileged witness. It did not bloom for me.
Still, I took it personally, a hopeful augury
that after years of invisibility,
and far from its native home, a corn plant
grew a perfumed tongue
to praise the air.