The Cafe Irreal: International Imagination 

Issue Fifteen

The Life Of Alonso Quijano, To Rise/To Fall, & Gerontomachy by Emilio Martinez
Shuteye by Bob Thurber
Magoria by Alexandra Berková
Liquid Hotel by Michael Overa
Sleeping Prescription: Directions and Cautions by Steven Schutzman
Botanical Curiosities & The Golden Apple by Margarita Engle
Selections from O, Vozque Pulp by Derek White
Gypsy by Saeed Tavakkol
Best, The Lion, & Children of God by Beate Sigriddaughter


irreal (re)views


Botanical Curiosities
and The Golden Apple
by Margarita Engle

Botanical Curiosities

The white roses from her murdered brother's funeral are still fresh six months later. Seeing the ghostly bouquet, I recall an old cedar house in a gnarled orchard where my husband and I crept around at night, searching for the source of eerie noises on the roof, curtains blowing even when the windows were locked, animal footprints and fresh paint appearing out of nowhere, strangers warning us that the house was haunted. It was the only place I ever felt truly peaceful. I tell my friend about the theory that everyone possesses a vegetative double in some faraway jungle, with leaves and blossoms that fan out or fold inward, driven by human emotion. I tell her about a bush in China so replete with aromatic oils that it has been known to burst into flame. I tell her how my grandmother in Cuba used to say that on Christmas Eve, barnyard animals are granted the gift of speech, and white roses bloom at every stable door. The murderer will pay, my friend agrees. Root leaf, seed, root. Everything comes full circle.

The Golden Apple

A child bit into an apple on his grandparents' farm. Inside the apple, he discovered a gold ring. His grandmother recalled a migrant worker who'd lost his wedding ring during the spring season of blossoms.

Botanists flocked to the farm, along with reporters, photographers, garden clubs, jewelers, a committee of mystics seeking documentation of miracles, and dozens of young couples eager to be married in the romantic setting of an orchard that had rapidly attained legendary status.

After meticulous scientific testing, a team of pomologists, phytoanatomists, biochemists, and plant physiologists concluded that the ring had fallen onto a flower. The flower had been pollinated by a honeybee. The ovary of the flower ripened into a fruit. Inside the crimson fruit, a golden ring remained trapped until autumn, when the young prince of the family released its botanical mystery.

The migrant worker eventually returned to the orchard where his circular symbol of eternal love had been lost. The ring was given back to its rightful owner, the magic now human, a cycle of generosity complete.

Margarita Engle is a botanist and the Cuban-American author of The Poet-Slave (forthcoming from Henry Holt), Skywriting (Bantam), and Singing to Cuba (Arte Publico Press). Short works appear in journals such as Atlanta Review, California Quarterly, Caribbean Writer, Hawai'i Pacific Review, and online journals such as sidereality, tin lustre mobile, Underground Voices, Poetry Greece, and VerbSap. Her most recent chapbook is Word Wings (Elin Grace Publ.), a collection of poems for children. Awards include a Cintas Fellowship, a San Diego Book Award, and most recently, a 2005 Willow Review Poetry Award. Margarita lives in central California, where she enjoys hiking and helping her husband with his volunteer work for a wilderness search-and-rescue dog training program.

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