Neither these nor the common names of houseplants
does he know.
He only knows to plant them
by southern windows and apply water
when they are dry. When they are dry their leaves
brown and crumble into a kind
of powder. A kind of powder that turns
into soil when mixed with water.
The leaves start small and bright
but soon they turn a dull dark green
and grow to the size of his forearm
or the thigh of a nine-year-old girl.
He rubs his cheek on the smooth skin
of the leaf just after shaving.
Nine gold miners have been rescued in South Africa.
In Brussels they debate a child’s right
to choose to die if the pain is unbearable.
The plant reaches toward the ceiling
as always and of course toward the window
and sprouts new leaves that spell its secret name.