Orchids

Selima Hill

The aeroplane must have been there
for several weeks. A few birds
were absent-mindedly picking through
the mangled remains of small children,
and a gold dog ran in and out
of the empty cabin, cradling
a spotted quince in its mouth.
The man we were looking for
was lying on a day-bed
under a red tree.
He seemed to be having some problem
with his skin, and was wearing
a pair of white silk gloves
and a white blood-stained hat.
He was the only survivor able to speak
and even he was too weak to talk
for more than a few minutes at a time.
He was an ex-oil-pipe-contractor
and a millionaire
who had been looking for a place
to breed orchids … and as he spoke
he lay back on the bleached canvas
of his ancient bed,
his eyes beginning to run,
his limp white penis
resting in the sunlight
on his glove. While my colleague
went in search of a blanket,
I listened to the gunfire
from the valley,
where my daughter lay awake
behind closed curtains
guarded by sweet machines
like a rare flower.