Heal-all, angelica, alum-root,
yarrow, sweet Annie, valerian shoots
swinging under foxgloves' lavender bells
a secret to make a sick heart well
at that eastern farm we waded flowers
and herbs renowned for their healing powers.
Black-eyed Susans in orange beds,
yellow primroses nodded their heads
as I followed the signs into the wood.
It was plicking, dim, laundry-room humid;
mosquitoes like dust-motes blown in flight
almost haphazardly settled to bite.
Two pinks caught my eye. Bending down,
I saw a caterpillar going to town
on a faltering stem; its body was slung
underneath, like a sloth's; the feet clung;
the head chewed. Four were making a meal
beneath a spray of Solomon's-seal
whose white drops kept quivering. Paired prongs, their six front legs worked like icemen's tongs, curving to stab. The rear-guard pylons,
gray, flat-soled, ten dutiful cousins,
helped shiver along the elegant back,
red and blue pustules edged with black.
Veering into a sunny aisle magenta bee-balm, white chamomile I saw dozens more, tan heads like helmets bobbing over the lambs-ears' velvet.
These maidenhair ferns were brewed
Poem by Elise Partridge
with permission of the publisher, Véhicule Press, Montréal, Québec.