Sunday, January 25, 2009

The apothecary's apprentice

She followed the master of the shop,
She was listening
but her mind was somewhere
three hours ago.
Her mind was making medicine.

You can make a pill from the placenta,
he said. Save it for later in life,
for the menopause it is especially beneficial.

The rarest treasures
make the strongest medicines. Our own bodies
make what we may later need.
Colostrum, placenta.

She nodded, attentive, liquid eyes wide
but it was another kind of recipe
she wove. I would take
those moments with you,
nesting, one hand
on your warm chest
fingers pressing
soft skin
heartbeat, no sounds
breaking through
but the chickadees, grosbeaks
happily singing in the new day,
I would take those moments
and make a pill.

Slice it thinly, he said;
place it on a baking sheet.
Bake it at 250 degrees Fahrenheit

for 24 hours.
Then you will place the dehydrated slices
in a mortar and crush them to powder.
Mix the powder thoroughly
with a small amount of honey,
enough to make pea-sized balls.
Place the balls back on the baking sheet
and allow them to dry.
Instruct the patient to store them
in a cool place.
The dosage is 1 to 3 pills as needed.

Got that?

One to three pills
, she repeated,
brushing pungent herbal flour
from her fingers
onto her apron

then pushing
her ruthless curls back
behind her ear.

Rachel Westfall
January 25, 2009


christopher said...

Oh Rachel, this is terrific

Julie said...

Excellent poem, Rachel!! I love the whole scene here and all of the wonderful details. Making a pill from placenta is so interesting. I've known a few "conjure ladies" who make medicines from natural body tissues or things found in nature. This poem reminds me of that, but I love how you show the apprentice, the one who is learning the secrets of the trade. That is a great twist.

I love these lines:

"The rarest treasures
make the strongest medicines. Our own bodies
make what we may later need.
Colostrum, placenta."

It's also awesome how you bring the chickadees and grosbeaks into that amazing stanza. "I would take those moments/and make a pill." Beautiful!! The voice and rhythm flows along as perfectly as the mixing.

I love it! Your writing is very powerful and unique.

RachelW said...

Thanks, you two! I had fun weaving the dry, dusty, pungent learning experience with the memories/fantasies of the apprentice. It's reassuring to hear from a couple of very talented poets that this one works.

Guess Who said...

Your beautiful words are medicine...a pill for the soul ;)



I have come here from Cherie/ Butterfly Dreamer's blog.
I have read some of your posts and would like to revisit.

If you like short stories and paintings, then a visit to my blogs would be an interesting one for you.

Naval Langa

Another Interesting Blog

Poetikat said...

See, that's my problem! If I'd had access to a placenta, I might not be dealing with the horrors of menopause (*she says after the third night of insomnia*)

In a way, this puts me in mind of a Robert Browning poem, "The Laboratory" where a woman is ordering a (what's the word?) compound? mixture? no. no.

Anyway--it is to be put to use for no good. She's going to administer it to her former lover and his new mistress. It's a great poem.
Funny thing is, I read it a year after I wrote "Tea-totaller" and I was shocked at the similarities. However, analysts (of course) attribute the poem to a political statement rather than a superficial vengeance for a jilted love.

Yours is a fantastic poem - and a bit of a departure for you, but I like it! Encore! Encore!


Kyddryn said...

Beautiful, love, as always.

Shade and Sweetwater,

joaquin carvel said...

this is every bit as pungent - and medicinal - as its subject. i like it alot.

RachelW said...

Kat, Kyddryn, Joaquin-- thanks! Kat, mine is thinking of something like a love potion, but for herself; I think the theme of the toxic brew is a timeless one. I'd love to play with that theme too, one of these days, when I'm feeling a tad... murderous.

Naval, welcome! Thanks for visiting, and for sharing your links.

RachelW said...

Guess who--

For you I will make a special brew, a lovely pill, full of sunlight and long evenings, fresh air and moonlight, sweet summer walks and winter thrills. Or perhaps, you would like to visit my spa? You will see, you'll feel like a whole new cat, er I mean person, when I'm done with you!

Guess Who said...


"The rarest treasures
make the strongest medicines. Our own bodies
make what we may later need.
Colostrum, placenta".--You are a rare one--The Magic and The Mystery--The Herbal Angel...The Healer--The Root of Life....

RachelW said...

Guess who, want to taste my concoction? Would you dare? ;)

Anonymous said...

the fantasy plays so well! Excellent!

RachelW said...

Thank you! :)