You’re even smaller than the last time I took you
and we are dizzy from climbing the spiral staircase,
its double helix to the canopy walkway,
eye to eye with royal palms and giant bamboo,
inside the palm house near the end of your life.
We reel, peering down through leaves
to the realm of flowers extinct in the wild.
Kew, Kew, how we love the perfumes
that we inhale like addicts, the safe air,
the glass hull like an upturned ark.
We haven’t yet been to the vanda orchids.
We are still making our way, delayed
once again by filmy ferns. Oh, the filmy ferns
where your face shines green.
I’m almost back inside the central dome
and you’re alive again under a haze of mist
as the humidifier switches on with a metered hiss.
We’re listening to the recorded rainforest birds
and I’m carrying your walking stick,
while you stroke treeferns, Jurassic cycads
with your rheumatic hand – knotted and veined rosary
I fumble for, reciting the five joyful,
five luminous, five sorrowful and five
glorious mysteries, of the one who saved me
and saves me every day, while we make
our pilgrimage to the world’s oldest pot plant.
Pascale Petit, from Tiger Girl (Bloodaxe Books, 2020).