The Green Punctum

A distorted square luminesces, glides toward me three feet in the air. It contains the vague and rebellious image of a being.

“I found a Dani,” Jason says, showing me a blurry iPhone photo of a plant. Beneath the photo is a caption, provided by a plant recognition app:

“Guayacan (Guaiacum coulteri)”

I am an adherent to the mirror. No matter what it shows me, I go back to find out what I think others know. I go back to see what does and does not change, to find myself up against the reality of the body which is me. A mirror, polished to an infinite sharpness, says things directly. A mirror makes possible warped, stereoscopic, double-exposed images.

The plant Jason has found, Guaiacum coulteri, has almost nothing to do with me. Though two specimens grow in Tucson, where I lived for seven years, I’ve never seen one. What we share is a family name: Zygophyllaceae. For the past two centuries centuries, botanical taxonomy has sorted plants into families by detailing the reproductive parts of flowering structures. The Joneses have six stamens and a superior ovary; the Smiths have three, inferior. More recently, genetic sequencing has been used to determine who’s relating to whom. Guyacan is presently grouped with other tropical and warm climate-inhabiting plants in the family Zygophyllaceae, first recognized by Robert Brown in 1814. The name, which translates from Latin to ‘joined leaf,’ is taken from the genus Zygophyllum, identified by Linnaeus in 1753. Nothing fell off the ark pre-sorted. Knowing what one creature has to do with another is an ongoing project, maybe a struggle, certainly a fixation.

No botanist has ever found me in spring, full of purple bloom and holding time in a dry forest. Never my joined leaves were seen, pushed by hot breezes and swatting at pollen-seeking bees. I am not the Zygophyllaceae that’s snipped and pressed between drying papers, shelved greedily in a herbarium cabinet. I am @zygo.phyll.aceae—an Instagram handle once chosen to hide me, in the public realm of Instagram, from potential employers. For those who pry and pay, I offer no mirror, but an artist’s sketch of a person trying to be a thing.

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