Lantern Review | The Hybridity Issue

Carrie Green

Lue Gim Gong, Horticulturist, Defines Words from A High School Dictionary of the English Language, Explanatory, Pronouncing, and Synonymous, 1876

I. Mon´grel (mung´grel), a. Of a mixed breed. –n. An animal of a mixed breed.

Left alone in the garden,
even the oldest roses
bear new blends,
mongrel plants
whose parents can’t be traced.

Yes, by accident. I shelter
open blooms,
for a bee can blur
the pollen I mingled.

I never thought
I’d bury my braid
in the garden.
I never guessed
I’d pin a false queue
to my hair.

I must not keep
the lime too sour to eat,
the grapefruit with pith so thick
my tongue can’t find the flesh.

II. Mule, n. An animal or plant of a mongrel kind; esp. the offspring of an ass and a mare.

The mule pulls loads of fruit,
his thick head bent
toward soft sand.
I drive the mule all day
and he does not whinny
or bray. He knows
when to stop.

The mule peach thrives
in a Massachusetts greenhouse.
The mule orange survives
February freezes.

Mule: A half-bred tree with no flowers,
a crossed fruit with no seeds,
a mixed man with no sons

III. Hy´brid or Hyb´rid, n. A mongrel. a. Produced by the mixture of two species; mongrel.

My birth mother taught me
to combine orange with orange.
She never crossed
kumquat with lime.

My Western mother taught me
to label, to name
the parts I already knew.
I need new words
for the plants I’ve bred.

To create the hybrid orange,
I crossed the trees whose fruit
ripened in summer’s heat
with trees that revived
after the Great Freeze.

Yes, by design. I wanted
a hybrid rose formed
from green petals, not sepals.
I blended the pollen
of celery-tinged creams
until the blossoms deepened
to pure, pale green.

I did not foresee
the bright, sweet perfume
of the hybrid grapefruit,
nor the raspberry’s
yellow-pink flesh.
The hybrid plant surprises, too,
with colors and scents
I could not dream.