"Mountain Medicine" from the Coronavirus Diaries In a lather granny woman forages along fencerow and thicket, her homespun pouch slung crossways, arms hugging her ribs, ready for a bramble’s lash. All morning crows attend her, gusting their long voweled language. Spring winds poke wild fingers through the trees, redbud boughs drop purple pearls along her path. Beneath damp pines she plucks needles and licorice root to brew for raspy throats, stiff knuckles loosen white oak bark for fever, a pinch of wormwood to calm the nerves. Along the creek’s muddy skin she culls yellow root and comfrey to be salved for hands already raw from washing, scoops thick red clay and wild violets for poultices. She blends mullein and red clover powdered, honeyed, into syrup to coat a cough, crushes rosemary to steady chills, boils eucalyptus with last summer’s marigold to loosen mucus. Bundling sage into a burly stick, she smudges the cabin, burns mugwort shavings to call the spirits, packs a ginseng chew between cheek and gum to fight fatigue, waits. Crows cluster in the shellbark hickory overhanging her front stoop, their shadows long, heads bent low, as if in prayer, as if they know, more than once, she has stolen a body back from death.
"To Those Messaging Me After My Mother's Passing" The alcohol has stopped working. My anger has become an affliction I work hard to dial down, like a an election cycle or tuba solo. So much to be controlled, everything languaged to death, the back story of our cherished whittled down to a spreadsheet. All the desperate utterances we tweet to be superficially soothed, our reward a scattering of posts and heart-shaped clicks. What is history anyway, but a conversation we’re born into without context, a string of songs about heartbreak, a universe that made us from its shattering and dust? Some days you’re handling the grief, others, you’re a dog in a car doing donuts in a Walmart parking lot. Everything has a dream of itself. The world rewards those tailored to its patterns, the rest of us left naked to fend. Birds are loudest just before daybreak. Every morning they sing, all brass and woodwind, convinced they bring the light. Even tapered, my anger leans in, holds me anchored, sifting through endless memes and search engines, abandoned glassware, melting ice, sweat rings, the stench of bitterness and booze.
Kari Gunter-Seymour’s current collection is titled “A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen” (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions 2020). Her poems appear in numerous journals and publications and on her website. She is the founder/executive director of the Women of Appalachia Project™ (WOAP™) and editor of the (WOAP™) anthology series, “Women Speak,” volumes 1-6. She is a retired instructor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, the 2020 Ohio Poet of the Year and Poet Laureate of Ohio.