She’d gift us, she said, whatever was left –
flowers the frosts hadn’t touched
at the end of the growing season –
so we drop by the day before our wedding
to find her offering two buckets of blooms
she’s gathered that morning.
In my hands now chocolate-scented Cosmos,
Statice, and the darker pinks of Yarrow,
which we call ‘Woundwort’.
Then she lifts up sprigs of Sage, Feverfew –
good remedy for headaches.
And interlaced with Crocosmia’s auburn fronds,
the fragrant mauves of Cinnamon Basil,
some seed-encrusted Fennel like jewelled saplings,
and three different Mints. Last come the Dahlias…
(o, sweet flower of Mexico!)
Dahlia with strong, open hands and fat, waxy buds;
Dahlia as powder puff, size of a tea-plate;
Dahlia whipped into tips we could eat.
Dazzling señoritas, with honey-crowns on dark curls
skirted with cerise. Pompoms. Saffron collarettes.
Sun-streaked turbans in deepest tangerine.
Back in the passenger seat of our car, I’m buckets
balanced between knees and feet,
drifting home on clouds of organic sweetness,
dreaming of the posies my sisters
and their daughters will gather to make;
and the most potent stems for the bridal bouquet.
When life first announced itself
it was all about the flowers –
this marvellous earthly presence
and how intricate shapes and colours
evolved to bewitch nectarivorous insects.
Every growing thing seemed a miracle –
even potatoes sprouting knobbly
in the kitchen basket awed me.
The test had confirmed it – a seed inside
– size of a cuticle –
a blessing forged in mid age
(my unexpected ‘yes’ to motherhood).
For a while it stuck fast and grew
as I weathered nausea,
and love stretched
6 0 0 miles….
At ten weeks
my Beloved and I moving in together, nesting
when ominous brown spots,
then floods of blood –
the scan with a foetus
big as a cashew
and its embryonic heart
Now the screen’s a crater
with a dark, frost-bitten flower.
And when I’m told a D&C
can suck the foetal sac away
No, it must pass naturally
so we can honour life
in the earth of our allotment,
the only patch of land that’s ‘ours’ –
and from where death
will one day nourish us.
Yet a month on
and our deceased is still
me anxious that it leave, livid
there’s no licence for herbalists to prescribe
abortifacient herbs –
British Abortion Act 1967 –
plants that served our ancestors
before the ‘Burning Times’….
And so my Beloved brings me flowers –
Mugwort, Tansy, Rue –
picked along the ragged margins
in the back streets of town.
(Salty floods erupt.)
Daily I brew up and drink
several bitter cups – ignorant
of right proportions,
risks of toxicity.
Hung upside down,
my emmenagogic bouquet
yet our fascicle remains
(limpet-like within) –
until a homeopath suggests
still not grieved
to let it
Autumn Equinox, twelve moons since that release. On the table in our cottage, a large bunch of herbs that’s dried against the flat-breasted chimney. As cunning-man and woman, we’re binding Meadowsweet, Bog Myrtle and Lavender harvested from riverbanks, fields, allotment. Our four hands wrap the hemp thread that ties the stems together. A sharp curve of blade cuts the bundle in two.
Days now till we’ll stand in a grove of Scots Pines at the stone sanctuary, sensing from its cool stillness all the chanting, meditation and prayers that infuse its fabric daily. With found feathers – Swan and Owl – two sisters will stroke aromatic smoke from these homespun bundles, direct it round our kith and kin, our celebrants and us, while a skein of Pink-footed Geese flies honking overhead. Through this kindling of herbs we will both be cleansed to journey through old and new rites of marriage, our vows to embrace every frost and flower.