My mother's mothers planted Knit-bone
in the mill-towns' plots and back-to-backs,
watered country wisdom, passed it on
to girls uprooted between worlds.
Tiny bell-flowers flecked with soot,
hairy leaves large as a man's hand,
(his strength to break or hug) a wedding
heirloom to each daughter-bride -
a piece of Bruise-wort root for each new wife,
newspaper wrapped Black-wort, a turnip
with a coal-caked crust, pale fleshy inside,
out of its element, oozing sticky tears,
transplants her to a woman's world
where  Comfrey's bitter tea could cure
when cures were few and love would risk it all;
could poison others, speed them to the earth.
The leaf too looks two ways: the rough
will draw the badness from a wound,
while smooth side heals and mends:
most potent if it's picked while just in bud.

Maggie Butt

If you have any comments on this poem, Maggie Butt would be pleased to hear from you.