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I visit a medieval herb garden in an attempt to rebalance my humours by Catherine Redford

Sage (Salvia officinalis

From salveo: ‘I am well’

Not statement, but prayer.

          Suck the poison from my marrow,                  

     purify with the wisdom                     

that this has all been lived before.

Betony (Stachys officinalis)

To cure chilly need     


Your side of the bed,

greater than emptiness – 

         somehow     emitting 

your  absence.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)                     

Also known as ‘Boneset’

The removal of a demon

    will inevitably cause  

         broken bones,

fractured ribs encasing a heart that pumps ceaselessly on,

bloody and hot and engorged.                                     

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

Soothing when rubbed on bruises

To soothe, from sōth

the truth,


   i.) the flickering falsehoods of reassuring words;

                 ii.) the cumulative truth pooling in hollows.


Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

For courage and pain relief

(which are one and the same.) 

I slip it under my pillow 

  to protect from          the repetitions

                  that play out in sleep.

In time I will build a wall of wattle and daub – 

let it bake in the heat of summer.                  


Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)

Said to revive any sickly plants growing nearby

                    I lie face down and inhale,

               waiting for osmosis, 

          for infusion.

Tendrils emerging from the cracks,

             entwining as the sun settles in a steady sky.

 When symbiosis is reached, each need only take alternate breaths.


Catherine Redford lives in the West Midlands. Her poem ‘Between women just grown up’ was commended in the 2021 Sussex Poetry Competition, and she has poetry published on Atrium and forthcoming in New Welsh Reader. She has also published widely on Romantic and Victorian literature, with a particular focus on post-apocalyptic texts and the Gothic.  Twitter: @C_Redford_


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