BITTER HERB, poem by Erica Jong
by Erica Jong
If you would poison your mind
with the bitter herb of self-hate,
nothing can save you:
not the lover who comes in the night
smelling of pitch & brimstone,
not the husband who comes in the light
smelling of hay & the golden turds of mares,
not the mother with her poisoned apple,
not the daughter with her wreaths of roses & opium poppies,
not the sister with her rosemary & rue
nor the brother with the mandrake root.
Having driven out the demons of the past
we find them now within.
No witches burn in the market
but our minds revolve upon their own spits;
no crucifixion upon Calvary
but a daily torture in the hills of the skull,
no smell of burning female flesh upon the heath,
but the acrid odor of the heart slowly smoldering.
What witchcraft will it take
to bend this world to our will?
Must we burn poisonous herbs
to kill the poisons in the streams?
Must we wear poultices of Henbane
& Deadly Nightshade
against the very air?
O take this garlic rosary,
this token of death’s breath,
this possessed vegetable,
this bulb of dried desire.
I am sick of haunting myself
like an old house.
I would be happier
as a hunted witch.
* * * *
With all the people contact my preparing to move to California in about month is requiring of me I've been dealing with lots of craziness. A lot of it my own emotional mess but a lot being generated by others, as well. And I've been somewhat surprised to recognize how much of not only mine but others emotional "stuff" tends to rise out of a habit of self-dislike, even at times self-hate and certainly unreasonable self-blame. I know many of the people I'm in contact with rather well which is why I can make that observation about them with a certain degree of confidence. In any case, the above poem has been brought to mind, over and over recently. And I reiterate those last lines with respect to myself: "I am sick of haunting myself/from within/like an old house ..." It is time to move on, both figuratively and literally!
BTW, the sketch above is one I did in 1978 at a conference/camp center in the New Hampshire woods, where I was teaching a poetry workshop. I've always thought of it as "the witchy tree."
‘til next time, keep dreaming,
[aka: Patricia Kelly]
****If you wish to copy or use any of my writing or poems, please email me for permission (under “View my complete profile”)****My other blogs ROSWILA’S TAROT GALLERY & JOURNAL and ROSWILA’S TAIGA TAROT.
Labels: Bitter Herb by Erica Jong