Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Herb Gatherer

By Glenn Ward Dresbach
From Collected Poems, 1914-1948

When fragrant fires of autumn smoulder
By upland pastures for wind to blow
And grain shocks stand, row after row,
He throws a sack across his shoulder
And trudges away in the mellow glow
To gather herbs – though he is older
Than most of the old men I know.

He squints in the sun, and always follows
The spring brook where the calamus hides
And he nibbles it, and away he strides
For thyme and tansy in sunny hollows,
Then on to burdock. His faith abides
in it for bitters, in careful swallows,
When winter had chilled his old insides.

Sage and boneset – his eyes keep sighting
Out of profusion the things he would find.
Pennyroyal, horse mint – these he will bind
In neat little bundles, always righting
Some slight disorder . . . at least in his mind.
He will hang them on rafters, ready for fighting
The ills of age . . . with the years so kind!

His old cheeks flush with the autumn weather.
His old eyes shine when the quail wings sound.
A sack that smells of the air and the ground
With tang and mellowness there together
Over his shoulder! And all around
The breath of autumn! . . . I wonder whether
Gathering helps more than the herbs he found.

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