2023 Best in Writing – Amber Hashmi

xerophytes → a poem  

the desert lacks the blandishments 
to make my heart content
but—nonetheless— these desert plants, 
oh, they think different, 

for desiccation does not phase them,
in the slightest bit
for their stomata close—and that’s an 
intrigue to admit:

diminishing chemical processes seem 
something not to shirk
but the buildup of carbon dioxide 
limits enzyme work. 

to prevent the photo-damage 
from the light absorbed,
chlorophyll is broken down
so the plant stays unperturbed; 

but still the lack of water 
is so incredible—
translucent cells, they do the hard work—
it is intentional—

with aerial roots, they store the water
in the sheaths of leaves,
forming a microclimate– 
this is the plant’s reprieve 

from the desert heat and dryness
(the opposite of deluge),
blandishments not to my taste
and yet still here they take refuge. 


A poem about Xerophyta Velloziaceae, a plant adapted to the harsh conditions of the desert, including closing their stomata to mitigate water evaporation, decreasing photosynthesis to prevent photo damage, and intensive water storage systems in their roots and cells. 

This poem is about the Xerophyta Velloziaceae plant, a poikilo chlorophyllous plant that grows in the desert areas of southern Africa and Madagascar. The poem discusses four of its adaptations: closing of their stomata to prevent water evaporation from transpiration processes, how chlorophyll is broken down to prevent photodamage caused by absorption of light photons when the photosynthetic enzymes are not working properly due to a buildup of carbon dioxide that cannot escape after the stomata are closed, the water stored in its translucent cells, and the water stored in its aerial roots. The poem follows a general ABCB rhyme scheme (with some lines having internal rhymes as well) to make the information more digestible and have a songlike/nursery rhyme quality to them to make it more fun to read. It starts off with a narrator describing how they do not like the deserts, which is in contrast to the plants that live in the desert because these plants (the xerophyta) have developed adaptations to help them live there. At the end of the poem, the narrator still expresses distaste for the desert, but points out how the plant prefers to be there.