Cimicifuga

Hear the author read this poem

White pipe cleaners,
chalky flags in wind,
sprang up unplanted
at the wood’s edge,
near rocks and icy moss,
oddly in November,
whose days thirst for light.
What an unpromising start,
conceived last summer
in the droppings of a bird
that fueled at my feeder
for the long flight.
Even its English names—
black cohosh,
snakeroot—
sound as though someone
didn’t want it.

Is this what death is like,
hope before darkness,
or is it waking?
On this land once,
a dying woman
of the Montauk people
ground star-white flowers
into a paste mixed with rainwater
and drank to her recovery.
Cimicifuga racemosa,
windsocks riding air
after roses are ash,
your name a rainbow of vowels
that sing of light,
glimmer in bone-dry woods,
blaze in our winter night,
deliver us.

Grace Schulman's recent books include Days of Wonder: New and Selected Poems (2002) and, ed., The Poems of Marianne Moore (2003). Her new collection, The Broken String, will be published this spring.
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