Urban Physic Garden


Viper’s Bugloss

July 7th, 2011 · No Comments · Medicinal Plants Poetry Project, Uncategorized

˜ a most gallant herb of the sun ˜

Flaring up with its pilot flame blue
like nothing I have ever seen,
blue as the rare blue sky of June,
Midsummer Common hot as its name.

˜ Blueweed, Snakeflower, Viper’s Grass ˜

The herb-seller’s reeling these off,
but I’m testing the words from the tag
on my tongue: strange bugle, floral
glossolalias, the trumpets serpentine.

˜ a most singular remedy against poyson ˜

with its stalks all speckled like snakes,
its adder-fashioned seeds. But who needs muti
for a scorpion’s sting, in Cambridgeshire?
Cures for unlikely things, charlatan’s dream.

˜ it will bring you bees and butterflies ˜

she says, bagging mint and rosemary
for me. Its fortressed spines against
the ants, those useless pollen pilferers,
but bees can scrounge, a larval feast.

˜ abundance of milk in women’s breasts ˜

procured, Culpeper says, by the seed
drunk soaked in wine. Which eases pain,
also, in the kidneys, back and loins.
Sine qua non: milk, honey, poor man’s opium.

˜ passions and tremblings of the heart ˜

But too much honey can prove fatal.
Vicious March, a dumbstruck April
and the weeks I’d sleepwalked since.
I needed something beautiful to grow.

˜ swooning, sadness, melancholy ˜

This was the year I learned the art
of weeping secretly, though in full view.
Trains, theatres, or Strawberry Fair –
the trick, the sleight-of-heart’s the same.

˜ it grows best in the dry and the waste ˜

I ripped the mint out later, greedy spreader,
but the rosemary burgeons, on and on.
My newfound simple lit the garden
with its blue of loss a while, was gone.

Perhaps it is the way of grief’s abatement
that I cannot mark a calendar with when.
Isobel Dixon
(From Herbarium, a new poetry anthology. Launch and reading 22 July)

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