Portrait of Passiflora Incarnata

The Guarani saw the hummingbirds enter the blossom and believed 

their own dead had returned.

I was once a bringer-of-spirits & visions.

           All children are graverobbers my mother said 

while I sat at the kitchen table crossing

her father’s arms, blinking my sister’s eyes.

A tonic for sleep she would grind from my leaves

I tried on all the names –

           wheel of fortune, clockface, maypop –

and turned my dresses inside out.

No one noticed

except the man on our street who did magic tricks

while he held the girls on his lap.

I wrote my confessions

                         Be watchful for what is taken by sleight-of-hand

                        Prayer is a mote of pollen on a bird’s neck

and stuffed them into the collection basket

until my teacher said some specimens evolved

to seduce the bee.

             My name on the board: Incarnata to make flesh

but not the body disguised as bread

I once opened for.

                St. Jude, Restorer of Mutes,

this is not a prayer.

Even if you won’t release the fingers 

that clamp my tongue, I’ll tell you of the vine

lashing itself to the chain link

around the red plastic cups shoved into the fence.

Weedy and insistent it drives itself upward

the way the record of things inscribed

in invisible ink or fingernail, wiped or painted over

but done to a body are revealed again.

Note: Long used for shamanistic and medicinal purposes in parts of South America, Spanish missionaries began correlating the passionflower’s outward facing anatomy to elements of the crucifixion story.

Angela Apte is a writer and educator from Houston, Texas, where she teaches at a public arts high school. She has an MFA in Poetry from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her work has appeared in Devil’s Lake, Mason’s Road, and Failbetter.