haibun with flower metamorphosis
San Diego, CA, USA
Mt. Carmel High School
i. america i plant flowers in your land because it makes me feel closer to you. dig into my botanical garden with earth-filled nails as if i could unearth my identity and find my roots in your soil. as if you would love me a shade deeper, as if the stars would gaze back at me. days without a sign of flourishing & i profess that yes, i whisper white lies to myself that no, i am not naïve. i am not a flower child craving mother nature’s love, i am not a wanderer hungry for my homeland’s stars. & now i bury my green card & hope it flowers into something earthly, douse it in tap water & it grows into a dandelion: stars in the grass. so i whisper it clean of its spores, make a wish, & america this is what you’ll see when you wake: a weed all along.
ii. interlude: i decide that flowers are the epitome of desire, that stars & white lies are no better than the earth: empty. there’s something cruelly ephemeral about beautiful things, you know?
iii. singapore i deluge this dandelion weed in pandan extract & coconut milk, sing to it in my mother tongues & it blossoms into a papilionanthe (1): beautiful reincarnation. & now i water your flower with tears because it reminds me of you, my homeland, though it wilts the next morning. singapore you always leave us star-crossed, & me desperate for resurrection, wondering why you never told me that saltwater kills flowers. & yes, i drink flower wine by the brim but no, i can never forget that i killed a flower like a living, breathing being & after: i hold wilted shreds to my heart and whisper white lies to myself that no, i am not a murderer. that i don’t crave to swallow more wine like salvation & second comings, that i don’t write requiems and eulogies for a demise of my own unmaking. i am plunging fingertips like knives into soil, hungry to revive my ancestry, to unearth my roots with my own lucid eyes. & now i emerge with earth-filled nails & soiled knuckles, with nothing & everything of a rootless girl who wished on too many stars, whispered too many white lies, & yet
somewhere in a dream:
roots from dead fingertips, &
1 - botanical name of the national flower of singapore. it is sometimes referred to as the hybrid orchid, vanda miss joaquim, the singapore orchid, or papilionanthe miss joaquim.
If you close your eyes, you can breathe in the earthen scent of soil and wilting girls in “haibun with flower metamorphosis.” This intimate journey across lands and within a girl without roots shows the slow erosion of identity, the painful uprooting of home. You can’t help but hold your breath and hope with the speaker, against all odds, as she “buries her green card & hopes it flowers into something earthly.”
Kayleigh Sim is a Southeast Asian writer living in San Diego, California. She graduated from Mt. Carmel High School in 2022 and is an incoming freshman at University of California, Irvine. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Interstellar Lit, Aster Lit, Pollux Journal, and elsewhere. She is the author of two micro chapbooks, night driving (Ghost City Press) and moongazing, ephemerally (Ethel Press).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR