Flora by Carolyn Oliver

Outside in Massachusetts it is February. Yesterday it was winter. Today the heat runs thick, like raw honey. Inside the botanical garden the plants are awake and rioting. Camellias, hibiscus, birds of paradise, orchids. Stamens and pistils, spindly sex. Overwhelmed? Go back. In the alcove, there, time hasn’t gone so far. Find sun worshippers, extracting pallid gold. Two bromeliads hoard water in their cups. Its spines jutting from wizened areoles on pads broad as stegosaurus plates, the cactus broods and breeds anticipation. Aloe tentacles upward. All clustered around lissome, stone-bodied Flora, held taut mid-step, eager to tumble her flush of roses earthward. Untimely Spring, smooth-breasted. No nursing her season into bloom. Spongy air presses, melts the nacre shell of ice clinging to the glass behind her. Laps at her pedestal, laps to wear it down. From her shoulders and her graceful nape swings a veil of pearly threads so fine the faintest wash of breath ghosts the silk from view: she is tethered to mere light, anchored in stone one wet kiss from crumbling. Hovering on the cusp. Ripe and hungry for this warm world. And maybe you can hold her back, or maybe you’ll be the one to tip her over. You with your cold hands. You with your sharp teeth.

Carolyn Oliver’s short prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Tin House’s Open Bar, CHEAP POP, matchbook, HOOT, formercactus, and New Flash Fiction. A graduate of The Ohio State University and Boston University, she lives in Massachusetts with her family. Links to more of her writing can be found at carolynoliver.net.