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Materia Medica

March 4, 2010

by Heidi Hart

In the gutter, maple keys, dried elm pods,
human hair, a shredded document

I gather with my bare hands, stuff into
a plastic bag and carry home. I twist it all

into a tall clear bottle that held spring water
from Norway, empty for a year. Long hair

catches on my thumbnail. I turn over
one thread of the paper with its font too small

to read, even if I could sew back its words.
An elm pod cracks and spills its seed. I fill

my cryptic and useless prescription,
knowing that the world’s hungry

for healing, not knowing what crushed herb
or tincture it can take. All I have is this,

a cylinder of silenced words and seeds that
will not grow, sloughed human cells,

bacteria that bloom invisibly in summer heat.
I add a sprig of fresh thyme.

Steam is rising in the glass.


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Heidi Hart holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. Her published work includes the memoir Grace Notes: The Waking of a Woman’s Voice (University of Utah Press, 2004) and the four-poet collection Edge by Edge (Toadlily Press, 2007). She is a singer and voice teacher who also teaches creative writing at Westminster College in Salt Lake City.

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  1. March 4, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Strong poem, emotional, depth. I simply love the first sentence. What a powerful way to begin a poem! It signaled, this is serious. Thank you sharing with us.

  2. March 5, 2010 at 8:15 am

    I was immensely drawn by this engaging, detailed, resonant poem. I love the way the concreteness and specificity of its many images is so nuanced that it adds to rather than detracting from the delicate, wistful lyricism – not something I often experience in a poem.

  3. Barbara LaMorticella
    March 5, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Yes, yes Heidi! What magic and poetry. The earth needs them!

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