I stuttered through each syllable that spiked
and bloomed from the undergrowth of my tongue
and cleared the space around it. Ra-flesh-a.
Books told me it was the largest flower,
but I saw through its disguise, sucking up
the moist air and gurgling its threats to me,
spurting out its effluvia onto vines
that ran across feet, rising as fungi.
Folk warned me not to stray too far from paths
where it lay dormant, steaming and rotting.
Its pock-marked leather hide hunched itself up
in a flurry of stench and carrion,
waiting to draw some curious child in
with its rimmed mouth, beckoning me to peer
close like a fly into its tucked up folds.
Yearly we wound through mountainside and parks
while I recalled my list of brutish plants:
the pitcher with its swelling gourd, gorging
on its prey like a fat bellied schoolkid,
the spider orchids dangling red feelers
over my unguarded back, but always
it was Rafflesia I feared most of all.
That day I swore I'd approach the clearing
and inform the crowd of its violent ways,
but when I came upon its charred black bud,
curled up as though fried and lynched by the sun,
I weighed up my distaste for that crude plant
and saw past its fitful aberration,
thinking, within this jungle's primal law,
it was all a question of survival.