The Fourth Orchid

The Fourth Orchid June 5, 2023


In a moment of weariness with 

who he has become, a sex trader 

tells the six frightened girls cornered 

in the back of a laundry that he will 

let one go. They pull hairs and the 

longest is left behind. That night,  

on her father’s small farm, a little  

worm carrying blight tires and lands  

on the elm, sparing the willow. The  

next season, a sudden gust through  

the willow pushes the bee to the next  

flower, which given the chance becomes  

an orchid that an aging artist talks to  

rather than paints. His students think  

him mad, except the one who will show  

us the inside of beauty. He stays on and  

his teacher says in their fourth talk with  

the orchid, “I’ve done away with brushes  

and paints.” And the spring after the teach- 

er dies, the girl with the longest hair, much  

quieter than most, seems an orchid her- 

self, when the younger artist, so busy with  

his paints, sees her reading near a pond.  

They will learn each other’s histories, but  

all depends on the tiredness that makes him  

stop and the wind that lifts her face so they  

might see each other in this long moment  

of complete rendering. In time, they will  

build their raft of love and set out  

on the soft, relentless sea. 


This is from my new book of poems, The Way Under The Way. 

Check out Mark’s Events page at for Mark’s upcoming in-person and online events. 

July 9, 16 & 23: You Don’t Have to Do It Along: The Net of Friendship. A 3-session virtual webinar guided by Mark Nepo 1-2:30pm ET/10-11:30am PT. Details at 

Aug 4-6: Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, NY, Surviving Storms: Finding the Strength to Meet Aversity, Weekend Retreat. (web link) 


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