My friend gives me an orchid 
the care tag calls Your Darling.
Water Your Darling once a week:
two tablespoons, lukewarm. 
Your Darling enjoys the sunlight.
But not too much. Just enough. 

I am not a common keeper 
of plants, having killed a number 
of violets, amaryllis. Knocked over 
a succulent, watched its earth scatter 
across the waxed hardwood. 

I want to keep My Darling alive, 
want to be someone’s Darling 
kept in a ray of sunlight, not 
too much. I think of the ways 
we reveal ourselves: the quirks
that sparkle with charm. My friend
with the binder of catalogued teas.
My friend with the necklace made of
fruit. My friend with the collages 
of tigers and seals. Their dimpled, 
half-moon grins. 

When someone calls you worthless,
you might question these things
in yourself. What exactly 
was worthless? You might look 
at the glass mermaid,
the anime t-shirt,
and wonder, Was it 
this? The things you find
darling about yourself—deemed 
worthless. Deemed having-no-worth.

Once, in a computer game, the goal
was to woo a lover, get them to marry
your avatar. You had to build up
a slate of heart points. You had to fill up
their heart gauge. My digital wife 
and I met on a dancefloor, so after 
we wed, I always took her dancing. 
I wanted to keep her heart full.

When I told this to the man 
I was seeing at the time, he said,
It doesn’t matter. It can empty. 
They won’t leave. God sends 
signs to those who listen. 

My Darling, My Darling, 
I will always cherish
your binder of tea flavors.
Your necklace of fruit. 
Will never find worthless
your wild creations. Will
always see the moon in your 
half-smile. Water Your Darling 
weekly, daily, hourly if you can. 
Water Your Darling, since
the heart is a pie near a 
mountain of ravenous ants. 
The heart a gauge nibbled away.

My Darling, I will never let you 
erode. I promise I will always 
read your care tag. Your charms 
will never be lost on me. Cross my 
heart: I will always bloom awe.

Cover art: “Don’t Fly Away” by Jen Soong

Catherine Broadwall

Catherine Broadwall (formerly known as Catherine Kyle) is the author of Fulgurite (Cornerstone Press, 2023), Shelter in Place (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019), and other collections. Her writing has appeared in Bellingham Review, Colorado Review, Mid-American Review, and other journals. She was the winner of the 2019-2020 COG Poetry Award and a finalist for the 2021 Mississippi Review Prize in poetry. She is an assistant professor at DigiPen Institute of Technology, where she teaches creative writing and literature.