In Old English, Robert, your name
means “bright and shining with fame,” long
before fame became corrosive,
fetid with rust and gritty metal.
The wild geranium, Herb Robert,
I find this morning sprawling across
the path, shines with a redness
the soul takes when it rubs arms with
angels who have drunk vinegar.
The geranium is horribly
pungent, grows in rocky woods, has
a glandular, hairy, thick stem;
red, juicy and forked; its leaves deep
green, sometimes ruddy. The flowers
grow in pairs — purplish-red or rose —
a cow’s lip color, suggesting
the holy bird of the Chinese
from whose flights fortunes were told
providing its other name, Crane’s Bill.
Still another name is Dragon’s
Blood, and this morning, in the woods,
I hear the leathery wings of
a wounded fire-breathing monster
overhead as through the oaks
and hickories the sun filters,
staining the leaves. At night when the
moon is full, especially in
October, these woods shudder with
a light thrown from the Other.
And the prophets of the flowers
are a croaking toad and a few
coppery snakes, lovely with venom.