Bending down to smile at a trillium clinging to her mother stem tight, tight in
the never-let-me-go grasp typical of a child holding onto the leg of an adult,
I tipped onto my knees to come eye to eye with the Perfect Poison.
The May apple (Podophyllum peltatum) at Mt. Cuba, Delaware
Not more than a foot or 18 inches above ground cover
The May apple at Winterthur, Delaware
which evolves to two leaves with either six or seven heart-shaped, serrated parts, positioned like a tray to the sky
and at the juncture of their two stems
a white flower with a yellow iris, completely hidden from above.
You have to be on your knees to see that there is a flower, protected. Overlapping petals.
and an oval fruit which grows when the flower falls
And the whole plant poisonous in every part until the fruit is ripe.
At which point the fruit turns yellow and is not only not poisonous
but has the reputation of transforming into a punchy jam or a punch, tout court, which carries the exotic memory of that poison without the harm.
Which is why we are bowing with the poet; even if we don’t know to whom.
Meanwhile, the velvet trillium flower
and its multicoloured kin
Double Form Large-flowered Wakerobin (Trillium grandiflorum)
growing, mostly, above their enormous leaves
Southern Nodding Trillium, Mt. Cuba, Delaware
and completely unprotected
Large Toadshade, Mt. Cuba, Delaware
are on long-distance flights which last much longer
Hybrid trillium (Trillium flexipes x Trillium erectum), Mt. Cuba, Delaware
than the lives of the May apple flowers.