Those white spots on the leaf are signs,
says William Cole, who dislikes astrology,
of a plant for the healing of lungs.
He sees signs everywhere. Red spots
on leaves of St. John’s wort, when held
against the sun, appear like pores,
and thus, the herb will heal the skin.
Tuberous roots of embarrassing shape
he tells us, are appropriately known
as pilewort. Those veins so prominent
on a plantain leaf mean health for heart
and blood. Yellow flowers clear jaundice.
Heart-shaped petals on rose or violet
will tell you what it’s good for.
No medicinal plant without its sign,
God-given, he says, unlike the foolish claims
of other doctors, missing the useful habit
of those who learn, to create a hook
for memory, for passing wisdom on.
Elizabeth Rimmer has published two poetry collections with Red Squirrel Press, Wherever We Live Now, and The Territory of Rain. Her third, Haggards, includes poems about herbs, wild landscapes, and ways of knowing as a response to social upheaval and regeneration and will be out in early 2018. She blogs at www.burnedthumb.co.uk.