Common Flower Parts
In fourth grade, my health teacher told us to hold a mirror up to our vaginas. I had never seen a vagina up close until then.
Ying Ying told us secrets in the girl’s bathroom like how, when we turned ten, our bodies bloomed. She proved it by plucking a petal from between her legs, a sliver of pink dotted red. That’s the thing about blooming, she said, you bloom inside out. We felt between our legs for the edge of a flower, but felt only stumps. Ying Ying said that sometimes the flower was harder to find, like her mum’s, which she could only find with a mirror pressed up to her bum. I asked her what kind of mirror and she laughed at me. I went home to the bathroom with the mirror that stretches from the ceiling to the floor and pulled myself onto the toilet, facing the reflecting wall. Between my legs, I saw a bud and was suddenly afraid of thorns. Ma kept scissors in the cabinet for cutting dress tags and splinters, so I fetched them. I locked the door. I was afraid the flower might leak, so I covered the bathroom tiles in toilet paper, then sat and opened my legs. We learned about flowers in science class when Mrs. Jones showed us a chart of common flower parts. The ovary turns into a stigma, surrounded by petals. I got a 110 on the test because I remembered to separate the pistil from the stamens. But where did the flower turn into a stem? I pulled away from the flower, afraid again. When my sister was born, she was attached to a stem. I stood beside Ma, my head just over the hospital bed. The doctor withdrew himself, arms retreating from under the sheets. His wrists glistened, curled with strands of vines and thorns. But I didn’t see vines inside me, nor thorns. I placed the scissors on the floor then reached two fingers back towards the stamen, past the pistil, until I found the stem. I withdrew my hand. There were no petals between my fingers, but white nectar-coated seeds. When I placed them in mouth, they tasted like mangosteens, strong and sweet.
Sharon Lin is a poet and essayist. Her work appears in The New York Review of Books, WIRED, Diode, Sine Theta, and elsewhere and is anthologized in Best New Poets 2021 and Voices of the East Coast (Penmanship Books). She lives in New York City.
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