Ratri and the Grieving Botanist

Rohana parisatis. Image courtesy of wikimedia commons.


Exhaled shadows from the nearby valley tighten about the cottage, merging with the darkness before dawn. Moonlight soaks through a grimy windowpane.

The botanist stirs fitfully in her sleep: the handsome face of a collapsing ghost whispers his final goodbye; he spirals brightly into the sinkhole of her heart.

Suddenly awake, the botanist spies a black orchid on the empty pillow beside her; dew catches against the touch of her trembling hand. Outside, the four-armed goddess Ratri plants several more orchids around the yard. Starlight shines through her silhouette.

Excited tears now lighten the botanist’s heart. A new species! Thanking the gods, she grabs her Rig Veda and presses the orchid between its pages; a specimen she’ll take to the local herbarium and name — taxonomic epithet immortalizing the man she loved.

Ratri smiles, lifts into the cool morning air. There she breaks over the cottage like a startled mass of black moths, and returns to the arena of night.

[Jay Sturner is a writer, poet, and naturalist from the Chicago suburbs. He is the author of several books of poetry and a collection of short stories. His writing has appeared in such publications as Space and Time Magazine, Spectral Realms, and Star*Line, among others. He has been nominated twice for the Rhysling Award. In addition to being a writer, Sturner is also a professional bird walk leader.]