“Mountain Medicine” and “To Those Messaging Me After My Mother’s Passing” by Kari Gunter-Seymour

 "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.