In The Hot-House

1. Parakeet Flower (Heliconia Psittacorum)


Here is a scarlet parrot
diving, wings blown back,
feathers a furled, aerodynamic
overlap: this is the bud,
opening in a steaming hour
into a golden sunburst
of radiant starfish or, rather,
dragonflies trailing
scarlet tails; they crouch
over the smooth green
poles of its stalks like, yes,
like dragonflies mating
clamped one on another,
while ribbed leaves
like three-foot paddles
stroke the artificial breeze.
But you'll have to imagine the scaly-
breasted humming-bird
like a blur of purple-grey and
viridian iridescence
inserting the curve of its beak
into the arcing corolla
like a key in the lock
of its own front-door.

2. Madagascar Star Orchid (Angraecum sesquipedale)

dawin's orchid

White giant of the rain-
forest firmament
you hang your pale

star high in the leaf
canopy, reserving
the foot-long spur

of your nectary for the lover
Darwin foretold – the
hawk-moth who

alone is able to recite
your many-syllabled
secret sweetness

on its long-imagined
tongue: golden xanthopan
morganii praedicta.

3. Pitcher-plant (Nepenthes)


Watch out for Aladdin's old brown slippers,
their curling toes dangling overhead;
each droops on a boot-lace stalk
that grows from the very tip of a leaf
after the fruit has come and gone.
The small ones remind me of
wrinkled leather finger-stalls,
or withered condoms –
ancient Egyptian,
made from sheep's intestine,
cotton or rice-paper,
their rims fashionably rolled.
These pitchers are lethal pots,
nectaries that lure their prey –
insects, mostly – trapping them
in order to brew a blow-fly jus,
or midge and mosquito consommé.
There is also one
that's large and patient enough
to cook up a broth of rats.

Anna Crowe

If you have any comments on this poem,
Anna Crowe would be pleased to hear from you.