Home » Issues & Poems » Issue Twenty Two » THREE BOUQUETS


Helen Moore


For A.T.



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


has                                   stopped



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   


I see    

a nurse


a face.




No, it must pass naturally      

so we can honour life

with ritual       

and burial

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      

entombed             inside,


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

is slowly

shrinking –


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.





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