October 5, 2021

Rue and Ashes, By Gerri Leen

Editor’s note: Gerri is one of my favorite poets. She has a knack for poetry that is both thought-provoking and accessible—a hard balancing act. And Gerri plays with words and ideas in interesting ways. You’ll see. (Kate)

Rue for remembrance, she said

Silly girl, who taught her herb lore?

Rue is for keeping things out, not close

If you want that, reach for some rose

Some lavender and jasmine

Flowers young ladies wear to attract

Charming young men—or princes

I know she was a lady once

Beautiful and royal

But aren't they all, these girls who come 

To me? Something other than what

They become once I'm through with them

For good or ill

Well, if I'm honest, some of mine 

Have been downright cruel

Poisoning apples and enchanting rapunzel

Demanding hearts and babies as if that's normal

Payment for the work we healers do

They don't help our reputation

That's for certain

This one—I don't know how she'll fare

I found her wandering, covered in ashes

Feet torn apart by glass footwear 

I stopped the bleeding with yarrow

And the tendon of a bunny I rescued 

From a trap but had to remove the leg

She didn't make a peep as I stitched

I'm used to girls with vinegar in them

With fire and passion—girls drawn to 

Damiana and angelica

To cinnamon and mint

But she's so still, her smile so sweet

Maybe someday she'll tell me why

She ran away from a life most would kill for

She's drawn to nettles, to foxglove

And mugwort, willow bark and 

Rosemary, valerian and lady's slipper

Useful herbs certainly but also dangerous

In the wrong hands

Her hands are gentle, but so were the girls'

Who made the poison apple, who blinded a

Prince in love with her girl

I never can read them

Am never sure if what I'm raising

Will be therapeutic or deadly

If only people were like herbs

Prescriptive and reliable

Alone or in combination

But then, what would be the fun in that?


BIO: Gerri Leen is a Pushcart-nominated poet from Northern Virginia who's into horse racing, tea, and collecting encaustic art and raku pottery. She has poetry published in Strange Horizons, Dreams &

Nightmares, Polu Texni, NewMyths.com and others. Visit gerrileen.com to see what she's been up to.


Altered image from Gardening Know How.


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Kelly Jarvis said...

Absolutely wonderful ❤️

Gerri Leen said...

Thank you! ❤️

Lynden Wade said...

Ooh, reading this made me all tingly! I wonder what the ash girl will do with those herbs... Love this poem.

Deborah Sage said...


Sharmon Gazaway said...

Love the herbal lore and yes, if only people were as reliable...:) Excellent poem.

Gerri Leen said...

Lynden, Debotah, and Sharmon

I'm so glad you enjoyed this! Thank you so much for the comments. ❤️ I have no idea what the ash girl will do with all those potentially scary herbs but I bet it will be interesting.