Herbalism, Poetry

Building Your Home Apothecary: March

O sweet spontaneous
earth how often have

fingers of
prurient philosophers pinched

,has the naughty thumb
of science prodded

beauty .how
often have religions taken
thee upon their scraggy knees
squeezing and

buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive

to the incomparable
couch of death thy

thou answerest
them only with


-e.e. cummings


As I held you in the palm of my hand, so petite and vulnerable, I listened carefully to the energy of your delicate awakening. Only the perennial patience of a determined “we’ll be back” could craft so fine a specimen, a myriad of rounded edges and scratched surfaces and imperfect formulations tugging at the heartstrings of winter’s final frost. Count backwards six-to-eight weeks, feel the part-sand-part-moss-part-compost tickle fingertips, perform salutations to the southern sky as you water sparingly (but never let them dry out). Remember that people have been doing this for hundreds of years – breath in deep the scent of cool, damp Earth, and tilt your head towards germination: know that for every small sacrifice there will be ten more that thrive, because it is in nature’s nature to persevere. Label pop-sickle sticks and plastic knives, little gravestones for the still-as-of-yet-to-be-born. You were the heirlooms of our ancestors, the proof that magic was real and myths were more than legends, and it is for you that we sing the song of gratitude and of growing, laughing musically when your tiny life-green heads poke finally through the soil. A seed always waits for the right circumstances.

New Apothecary Garden Seeds


She had fine teeth that made tiny pin-pricks on the palms of my winter-dry hands, a stinging reminder that healing can leave scars. I am reminiscent of adventures had in cool, damp places, bare feet padding along moist, mossy highways, making spur-of-the-moment decisions at random rough-and-tumble crossroads. Pick with caution, dry with fervor, lay strewn haphazardly across a kitchen table – good for that one uncle with the perpetually red cheeks, who speaks only in the dialect of complaints. Inflamed emotions can lead to misunderstandings, drink deeply and inhale the aroma of mitigation, taste the flavor of compromise. Slow down, take a deep breath, count calmly to ten. Histamines and hieroglyphics, shadow puppets on beige walls formed by the sinking of an early spring sun – not yet hot enough to warm the frozen ground. There is a shield on her back, a sword at her hip, armor rich in iron to ward away familiar demons.

wild stinging nettle


“Nothing special,” they dismissed you, without noticing your radiance – weed, unwanted, overabundant, and a myriad of other accusations. Surely only a blind man would not notice the brilliance of your golden grin, the way you sprout from sidewalk cracks and brick recesses and all the hidden, secret places others dare not venture. Cauldrons simmering below a summer moon, you made a profit out of pennies, turning nothing into something grand – little lion, level-headed, lackadaisical. I wish I had half the confidence you seem to carry with you, the bite of your wit against an arrogant remark – the sweep of your arm as you perform feats of wonder for your audience, humbling those who thought they knew you better, surprising those who knew nothing at all. We drank too much wine one night and fell laughing from our seats, hitched over belly-moaning tears streaming down our cheeks. I wish it were easier to recall why something so bright would taste so bitter, would cool instead of boil, as if the world were up-side-down (and maybe it is). How desperately I cling to times of splendor, root to stem, a green thumb and a greener smile, ferocious, never failing: oh how they should really look at you, witchling, and see the beauty of your tenacity.

apothecary herb garden philadelphia horticulture center


2 thoughts on “Building Your Home Apothecary: March”

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