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Emily Dickinson's Herbarium.

Amherst, ca. 1845

It's all I have to bring today--This, and my heart beside--

--ED, Poem 17
EMILY DICKINSON'S HERBARIUM

Page 1: Horse Balm

   So begin, child, with one at hand, this weedish
   angel of boggy shade, "clergyman's friend," his cure
   for hoarseness; splay its serrate wings
   into service as a seal of royal entitlement.

   In quadrants, set barberry, privet, vetch,
   and in pride of place a spray of common
   jasmine, hold its heady scent to the brittling
   page with narrow paper strips--then press its four

   florescences just so: two Venus-flounced and flared,
   two pursed like Cupid's penis-bud--the
   paired pinnate leaves already a laureled
   crown for the whole Bright Affair.

Page 2: Wild Ginger

   These inverted hearts can conjure
   a maharani's lavish fans for a girl at her book
   on summer's divan; their wildly imagined
   aromatic snaps might sharpen on the tongue.

   Let's grace this page with pungent marigold,
   though its petals will powder to a sulfur's wings,
   and opposite, mount a racemed camass stalk,
   its bulb the sweet squill of proximate shores.

Page 3: Common Bush Honeysuckle

   Fix this sprig's six cherubic wings aloft
   the page, make them worshipful of the three
   (fading) clustered trumpets' blare,

   and below--Asclepias' showy orange lure
   for the Painted Lady who'd sip its bitter tonic--the
   same that's steeped for a bronchitic child,

   the one soul-pressed at her window above
   a garden-blaze of evening primrose, risen
   full beneath August's waning moon.

Page 4: Miterwort

   Now devise a pun for the eye with this little bishop's cap:
   crook his nodding grace to the page--in a crosier's
   curve--and fling his glove-lobed hands in prayer.

   For balance, let the cure-all mallow swing
   a musky, heretical incense from its upraised
   palmate leaves--narrow-toothed, dissected.

Page 5: Blue Flag

   In mudbanks, you lost a shoe,
   but--scolded--wielded each thyrsos
   as a prize, then arrayed the petals,
   let them pale and mullion like dragonflies
   at the pond where your flame-

   blue pennants swayed--nor feared
   to shoo the eager bumblebee who hummed
   about the sweet-laundered Dutchman's
   breeches that Spring hung out on lines.
   You claimed not one feathery spray, but two.

Page 6: Blackberry,
Poison Ivy, Pitcher Plant

   This trio conspires to jam the page
   with foretouched pain: whole fields
   can prickle in the sun. Once warned--wary
   them, despite the sugar-tang

   on bloodied fingertips--and though you mistook
   for twining bittersweet this ivy's skin-blistering
   scald, you'll soon know its necklaced
   pearls--the foraged trove of winter birds--and
   watch, wasp-eyed, as lacewings
   kiss this Saracen's lips, descend
   and disappear--here is the enzyme
   of the enterprise that will consume you.

Page 7: Red Trillium

   Maggot-gravid flies buzz hosannas
   to this stinking woodland trinity. It's said,
   mash their blooms for a poultice to swathe
   the gangrenous rot of flesh, or daub
   a tinctured swab to soothe a nursing mother's
   aching nipples--and numb the child.

   Believe what you will, but if you sip
   enough of this beauty's clot-red brew,
   you'll staunch the flow of the moon.

Page 8: Oxeye Daisy, Frostweed

   Stare back through these two eyes, plucked
   from lowing fields, your firmament
   of milky suns. Solitary awe's
   the constellated path you blaze--

   as here, this lonely anchorite
   of sandy wastes, her candle snuffed
   in a day, abides in stealthy ecstasy
   under skies as broad as seas--

   her hidden bliss--rare ambergris.
   Even when shuttered in November's cell,
   she announces herself each timid
   dawn--begemmed, more icily than He.
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Author:Foerster, Richard; Forester, Richard
Publication:Shenandoah
Article Type:Poem
Date:Mar 22, 2009
Words:557
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