Ellen Welcker

The Botanical Garden (excerpt)

I found myself in “Australia”; the Australian trees had skin like me.

In “Papua New Guinea” I saw a powerful woman giving birth to a yam. She was pushing and the yam was crowning and I did not think about her or this or what it might mean; I thought about me because I could not give birth to a human.

I stood by a bench in “Chile.” I watched a woman whose throat had a window in it. Through the window her voice box was visible. Inside her voice box was a wind-up handle; it was a jack-in-the-voice box. I wanted to wind her up; I thought I would hear a bird. The woman’s throat was blue and green. She shimmered and her branches were black. I could not stay open.

I had hoped together we could produce a tiny human.

Hummings were happening. I saw something stuck in the window. I wished; I willed it to be a whale. A subtropical whale; the color of papaya. The sleepy plants tried to summon a blossom for the hungry, but the bees—already gone since the spring before, mysterious.

It was called a syndrome: placing a name upon that which eludes naming.

This kind of thing, is it deeply upsetting? Someone is saying genus and species. Someone is saying exotic. Someone is pronouncing a dead language.

Along the path, a biological oddity: an appendix of a human, or a pelvis buried deep within a whale. Vestigial, a question of evolution.

A woman lay down and the tracks were laid into her. Neatly, which meant nothing could go wrong. I heard a train. Felt it rumble, humping federally-approved missiles across my body and into the desert.

In “Madagascar,” someone sold a piece of a wall for a trillion Malagasy francs. Many of us had only heard of this wall—never seen it—and we all kind of wanted a piece, just for looking.

The wall could be seen from space.

I wished for my mother in “Myanmar.” In “Myanmar” I missed my mother. I wished for, I missed, my mother, “Myanmar.”

I began covering myself with small bags of krill in “India.” The krill and I made a pleasant sshhh-ing sound when I walked. The sound was reminiscent of the sound one makes to quiet a baby. I walked everywhere.

The fence limits the movement of people across a specific border, or separates specific populations.

The justification for the construction of this border is referred to as ‘civil pacification.’

In “Belize,” or in “Nepal,” we wondered, what are we doing here together?

The heart of a whale may weigh 1500 pounds.

I thought I heard my name in “Ethiopia.” I may have been called by name in “Ethiopia.”

In “Ghana,” the ultrasound showed swimming, breaching, spouting.

I began asking the babies to say my name. Say my name, I said. Say you love me. The clouds gathered for the first time in weeks. The gray felt internal. Can you express me, baby? Say my name and try.

I stood to the side, off the coast of “Libya,” where hundreds were drowning. I cupped my hands together like a boat. I was just getting to know my parents.

The immigrants of “Luxembourg” gave a sensual diagnosis. I watched the feathered tongues unfurl, the dripping genitalia, the frightening loveliness that was normal, normal.

While migrating, the refugee surfaces about every four to seven minutes. However, some species may submerge for up to ninety minutes, with dives as deep as 3,200 feet below the surface.

Oceans are widely considered a waste-management option.

Consider the millions of aortic pulsings, the millions of ventricular contractions. The fluttery movements. The eyes. The rising temperature of the sea. The odds were about one in eleven million that I would conceive with a whale.

The speeds of light in “Bolivia,” of sound in “Bolivia”; the orange peels, the minutes that pass in “Bolivia.”

In “Chad” I had this mother, this tiny mother.

In “Slovakia” the sounds of liquid kept piercing my eyes. I saw the drying—I saw it but I could not help for feeling so wet inside.

The right detainee does not sink when killed, hence its name.

Something about “Cyprus” said ‘well.’ It meant a deep, deep. It meant containing. It was a body like mine, but wetter.

In “Seychelles” she was speaking; her mother was dying. In “Seychelles” she was leaving; she had been saying. Her mother is gone and she is opening. Perhaps she is closing. Her teeth are all lined up and glowing. Her liquids are showing.

We were softly, softly now. We were hardly fluent. In “Ukraine.”

Someone was rocking in “Liechtenstein.” Anyone cared. Someone was whispering into the phone, I didn’t want you to be pissed off at me, and you’re pissed off at me.

The barrier is a concrete and barbed wire fence. The aim of the fence is to stop infiltration of terrorists, prevent smuggling, and to prevent large-scale illegal immigration.

Ocean dumping is generally banned worldwide.

In “Ireland” I began to sort through the garbage. The garbage was comforting as well as repulsive. I often knew just what it was.

In “Vanuatu,” let me be a moat, I mouthed, let me be.

We were singing in “The United States.” We were singing it be and singing it blue. We were inheriting freckles, slaves, and socialist tendencies. We were singing backwards, not to waste it. We were singing slow, for relishing what we didn’t know. We sang low.

And I died waiting. Or I hung myself in my cell. Or I coughed up blood for hours. Or I survived; I wrote my name on the wall, in case.

A parrot in “Guatemala” said give it a love now. Give it a prettybird.

In “Portugal,” I typed my name into a search engine. This is what came up:

      missing info missing persons missing mother
           central processing unit
    missing sea
         see: missing

In “Norway” a school of minnows. A flock of swallows. No blinking. Ashimmer. A quick night, a black sea, a deep deep, heavy and cold. Then, upping and open, the bright wind, the cold sun!

In “Angola” an invisibility, an invisibility.

Sighting: a pod of refugees in the Pacific Ocean in August, 1995.

I smelled the people of “Mongolia” opening and closing. At designated times, circadian, like a lovely bird, a singing bowl.

It was a wife in “Paraguay.” Someone was holding. Or a cousin, a flotation device, a fin, or a lifeboat.

In “Saint Lucia,” dozens of whales flying overhead. Swoop and soar, their eye came close to mine. Eye like a word. What.

The whaling corporation had used killing boats: at the bow of the boat was mounted a muzzle-loading whale gun with a 3¼-inch bore. Black powder was put in first, second the waste, and third the harpoon attached to a rope leading to the wenches. Outside the gun and part of the harpoon was a bomb, with expanding arms and so timed as to explode inside “Palau.”

Pashtu was planted in “Afghanistan.” Persian and Dari were planted in “Afghanistan.” The listing or placement of any entity in this statement is not meant to imply an official position in any dispute.

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