The Ghost Orchid
in memory of Paddy Lowery
Eldest of four children and the youngest too
he always seemed to fit.
His face in her hands a ghost orchid
her arms and lap
growing him the perfect bark
quite like his aerial roots, bright tinkling breath
his language of the forest and the stars.
Wondering at every leaving if he would wake
wanting her to come to him
with a cup of water
the guilt was there
scrabbing her skull when she went to work
or saw the moon luminous and full.
Its creamy claws stropped
giving consent finally for them to peg feed her boy.
No more smooth vanilla spinning gold on lips
never parting with a word or forming O
facing the benediction of virgin snow
no more broken bread, piloted
through jiggery egg and onion air.
Changed completely – secret Sunday afternoons
lemony with sherbet dip
crackly with salty potato crisps.
Each one a crescent of sparkling light on his tongue.
And when she thought he could lose nothing more
they said too weak for walks
from now on strictly wheelchair and hoist.
The ground she stood shifting
under that first lift, up there
higher than ever before
joy a canticle of cloud pouring from his mouth
thin white legs leap-frogging air.
The shots she always said he called, right on target:
Small shoulder blades pierced and glistening.
The afterbirth of a wing.