Saturday, March 10, 2012

Famine

I earned these burning hands
pulling nettles from your grave.
Too late to salve your wounds,
but I might yet save the babe.

He rides against my ribs
and finds his famine at my breasts.
I'll drink the nettles down
and leave to Mary all the rest.


Notes:
I don't usually do these, but . . .
*In the mid-1800s, widespread failure of the potato crops in Ireland led to the starvation of roughly one million people.
*For thousands of years, the stinging nettle has been revered by many cultures for its practical, medicinal, and magical properties.  The Irish believed that nettles grew out of dead bodies. Nettle is one of the Nine Sacred Herbs for the treating of wounds.  Nettle tea can be used to help lactating women produce more breast milk.  However, chemicals in the plant's needles cause a stinging burn if you brush up against them.


Submitted for the "heat" portion of Shawna's prompt at dVerse.

27 comments:

Brian Miller said...

damn, evocative MZ...esp that second stanza...its got heat, but lots of grit as well...

happygirl said...

The sting of the nettles and the sting of death and starvation. "The nettle is a dioecious plant, with male and female flowers growing on separate plants. The species name, dioica, means "two households" in Greek." Oh how this verse shares the pain of being mother.

Claudia said...

goodness...i have my experiences with nettles...but not of that kind...intense and gritty and thanks for the footnote as well

Mary said...

A strong write, one that I can feel....as always I can FEEL your poetry.

Mary?? Mary who?

Anonymous said...

This is fascinating; thank you for sharing the back-info. I'm very interested in Irish culture, so this is quite a treat.

"I earned these burning hands" is a powerful line in meaning and in sound. The same is true of "I'll drink the nettles down."

~Shawna
rosemarymint.wordpress.com

Daydreamertoo said...

It's amazing how much we don't know and yet native peoples DO know about natural herbs and how they can be used in medicinal healing and other things. Nettles do have a dreadful sting in them but there's another leaf that if you rub it on, it takes the sting away. (Can't think what that is now)
Great write MZ

Natasha Head said...

LOVE this! I have experienced such burning hands...and healing drink. No worries...the added notes where a bonus on this one...you're still the coolest Mama :)

Mama Zen said...

The Mary referred to in the poem is the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role of protector.

Charles Miller said...

I've brushed up against those nettles and they burn like the dickens. This is a sad song, reminding me of an Andean song that was one of saddest I have ever heard where a mother is so inured to the death around her she sings almost harshly of the child's death. Excellently written, so tightly drawn and arranged as sparely as its subject requires.

Grace said...

Very powerful voice MZ ~ I appreciated the process notes as well ~

hedgewitch said...

Thanks for the info on the dead bodies and tea--I never knew a stinging nettle (at least the vegetable kind) till I came to Oklahoma, but since then I've learned to respect them--your poem is multi-layered and strong in grief and also hope; a fine one.

Sylvia K said...

One of your best, MZ, and thanks for the background info, I knew some of it, but not all! Terrific!

Sylvia

J Cosmo Newbery said...

Very powerful writing.

Fireblossom said...

Channeling my tribe, are you MZ? ;-)

PoetColette said...

Scorching reminder for our times of plenty.

Manicddaily said...

Wonderful poem. K.

sheila said...

very dark with a nice touch of history. thanks for the notes - they added a lot for me.

Yousei Hime said...

Really well done. Said enough, said it well, and no more. Another visit here enjoyed.

Susie Clevenger said...

Nice work...a piece on Irish history written as if you lived it..

Brendan said...

Paracelsus the medieval physician once said that only fire can cure fire -- nettle tea a remedy similar in intent, I think, to squeezing life's lemons until the run in lemonade. Poetry is nettle tea, as here, transmuting dearth and death into an enduring song, enough milk for nourishing the singer if not quite enough to nurse a child. (Good way of naming what poetry is good for, and what it's not). I mistakenly, blindly picked nettles in the garden with one then the other hand last weekend -- we only see them in the spring -- and my skin burned numbly all day. They're worse than a manowar's sting; its amazing it can be seeped into something that can cure where it otherwise so afflicts. - Brendan

Dave King said...

Superb. It struck a memory that brought it all to light.

Mystic_Mom said...

This is amazing, power packed in few words and yet the images and the sting of life, birth, death and damned netters burns through. Wow!

janaki nagaraj said...

Learned something new today...well written.

Gail said...

Fantastic poem.

Fred Rutherford said...

oh, really cool. earning burning hands pulling nettles from your grave- I just like the way it sounds but then reading your notes, wow, really takes on another meaning- love that. Thanks

Beachanny said...

Seamus Heaney would be proud of you. This breathes and tells Irish. I felt the pain and the hope within.

moondustwriter said...

Then and now many feel the sting of famine
Appropriate forr the season
Thanks MZ