A Little Herbal Primer


Prostratus, Alba, Severn Sea,
good memory
you bequeath. And
to the woman

who wears you on her head, a man
who will be true.
It has been said
when Mary on

her flight to Egypt laid her cloak
on you, your stunned
white blossoms turned
suddenly blue.


to my father

Blackfoot woman you would never
know, what made her
name you that? Name
you kept hidden

from your friends who answered to Bill
or Joe. Silly.
Unmanly, you
said. You who knew

only stories. How the mare she
had loved broke the
fence when she died.
How hard you cried.


Seed of Horus, Eye of the Star,
Bull's Blood. Oh, where
did Granddaddy
get the stuff! Treats

bitter as quinine he reached for,
yes, whenever
we visited.
Still, beneath that
gall was just enough sweet to lure
us back for more.
Odd, still, how much
we miss the stuff.


Oh, bittersweet Achillea,
the men you must
have saved to earn
his name, he who

knew how well your feathered leaves
stanch the flow of
blood. How we must
defame you, who

use you now for acne's surest
cure, the quick
tion of manure.


to the Anglo-Saxon,
Egypt's minion
offered up to
sun. Little weed

of our childhood picked to appease
our mother's ire
when Father turned
to drink. Too soon

we learn, as field and cove and ditch
we tread, the more
it is trodden
the more it spreads.

Cathy Smith Bowers is poet-in-residence at Queens College, in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the author of Traveling in Time of Danger (1999).

All material copyright © 2000 . All rights reserved.