a poem by Mary Ann Titus, published in a years ago issue of The Herbarist.
Does it ring a bell for you? It did for me.
Women of the Herb Garden
No woodland sprites or gnomes are these--
the solid women -- on their knees
tending marjoram, lavender and thyme.
Snipping growth that overruns the beds,
pulling plants whose lucious heads invade
and placing them -- the weeds-
inside a plastic laundry basket,
If others shrug intent aside,
urge Sweet Annie ramble wild until
a single iris chokes, sheds its velvet --
these will not.
These women who wear aprons with pockets
to hold steel tool close answer
by snip of shears, pluck of wrist, a snap,
a twisting crackle.
Firm-handed women in heat and in fog
who harvest the homely, shelter the rootless,
return the rose-bearing shrubs,
water and cradle
the bug-bitten leaf,
the tender ephedra flower
until power leaves their backs
and the arch of the foot goes flat.
Bare heads to the sun,
bare hands to the soil,
they scoop up the slugs and the snails
in dirt-creased palms that force recall of how easy
the helpless fall
into a metal coffee can.
Herb women pray
with trowel in hand.