in memory of F.C. (1965-1991),
who died of AIDS complications

But there under the dark eaves
of rain forest, we found Broughtonia,
its crimson petals aflame,
its yellow throat, veins hinting purple,

rising to a sanguine corolla surrounded
by sepals as crinkled as mourning crepe.
We followed a path lengthened slash by slash,
the islanders swinging machetes in front of us.

We were told how Broughton's hands trembled
when he sighted those orchids languishing;
as he sketched, his nervous pencil
exaggerated the crumpled edge of every bloom.

We, too, had learned to exaggerate.
That night in Montego Bay,
we told the others we had seen dozens;
in New York, we said hundreds.

Today, we might have imagined the wind
licking us back into the Gully,
our hands as uninhibited as those petals.
No. I can no longer imagine. I choose not to.