Arnica, from arnikis: lamb’s coat.
Salve for sprains, tincture for heart.
Possible enhancement for psychic powers. Blooms in May.
Rhizomes bear hard, small, wiry roots.
—Amos Brier’s Mountain Apothecary, 1896

Hunched, with white weedy, overgrown brows,
he dips blue-tinged fingers into the clay pot, rubs the salve
into my stiff, ailing shoulder,
his touch smooth as riverbank clay.
I close my eyes sinking into home-
spun cushions as he works medicine into my skin,
fingers delicate bones, the font of hurt.
Lavender, garlic, and old wool scent the air.

The arnikis flower is furred like a gimmer,
he says, yet it offers strength.

Cottage air cloys my throat. I am unused
to masculine touch. Papa gone, years now.
Peter left too. My heart rails why this, why now, if
only. I want to be a good patient.
I cannot lie still.

I open my eyes. Salve shines on his fingers like seawater.
His eyes are dark, an animal hide.

He murmurs, do you feel a loosening?
It feels as if you are tearing my arm off, I say.

But it is not sooth. When Peter left, that was
a severing. Since then, I have grown tough.
The fingers press and provoke. It is quiet.

To heal is to be part of mystery, he says,
rarely does healing take a path one can foretell.

Long winter months alone, I’ve forgotten
what it is to hear a kind voice, to be asked
ordinary things.
His voice, his hands, and the medicine, they soften me.
I can’t speak about Peter, or Papa, or the pain.

You will be well again, daughter.
His voice drifts, settles, a feather.

To be well. Ah. I say: the marigolds
are coming up in my flower box.

His mustached mouth stretches, smiling, turning
towards sun like an old vine.
I soften gaze, tongue, spine.

My healer stands back, beard tapering
to his chest like fresh-gulped cream.
His back is straight.
Your new flowers, he says.

I drop fear to the earth like a sword.
I will go forth with the fierceness of the wolf
who circles the corn until winter ends,
hands empty, arms at my sides
light as lambs.

About Christi Krug

Christi Krug’s poetry and nonfiction were published in The Sun, Nat. Brut, Halfway Down the Stairs, and elsewhere. For nearly 25 years, she has taught creative writing through Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, and now does so virtually. She leads live yoga-writing-nature retreats. Visit her website at www.christikrug.com.

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