They advise sprinkled honey & an amulet of Isis
or date-acacia paste applied to wool
but pennyroyal’s local. Steep it with some tansy,
or better: bitter cohosh. Horsemint in a pinch,
fennel stem with sludge of boiled mouse:
all the understory smashed for secret teas
Silphium, worth eight times its weight in drachmae,
is now extinct. Try prayer. Calf liver’s crimson
spill in milk. Your own sour piss. Don’t think.
Try bleach. This lye.
Squat trembling above a pot
of steaming onions, tightly bind the waist. Several
tries might be required. Can you manage
an electric shock? Rummage up some phos & lime?
(Phos is short for phophorus. One East End
woman to another, in that accent we still find
picturesque: ’Ave you any phos and lime,
luv?) Have you any wire? A sharpened bone?
Whale is best. Or a turkey feather (really any quill),
a knitting needle or a bike spoke, some
dust from the tabernacle floor, why not
hot opium on a long broom-straw. Nightshade. Gin.
A mason jar & tube, a veterinary syringe.
Amy Beeder is the author of three books of poems: And So Wax Was Made & Also Honey (Tupelo Press, 2020), Now Make An Altar (CMU Press, 2012), and Burn the Field (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2006). Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, The American Poetry Review, The Southern Review, AGNI, Kenyon Review, and The Nation, among other journals. Recipient of an NEA Fellowship, the “Discovery”/The Nation award, and a James Merrill Fellowship, she has worked as a creative writing instructor, freelance writer, political asylum specialist, high school teacher in West Africa, and human rights observer in Haiti and Suriname. (updated 10/2021)