Julian Mithra
Winner of the Prospero Prize
Homilies for Horsetails
Cease pestering me with legstem
drooling about my skirt.
I’m civilized; I’m equatorial.
I must wade to town through your
pesky equestrian ankles.
You’re just horsetails:
spit, swales, hardy and hale.
That’s what you’re made of.

Our vale, alarmed with birds
annoyed with insects
forgot your arboreal silence.
And we can’t cajole into speaking
the nascent arthropod
rare soil.

Come spring, you still
coil and uncoil
In the summer, you
brew branchlets’
wet, mute
The kitchen brat scours the pail,
naming Pewter Wort.
The motherless lass takes the path,
naming Fox Tail.
The stable hand polishes the bit,
naming Dutch Rush.
The glad bastard smiths the glass,
naming Bottle Brush.

Herbalists recommend the vulnerary horsetail
for its healing power.
Sop pus. Smooth bruise.
The older usage has died out
the one that means “wounding, causing wounds.”
During the Devonian
the genus in question’s diminishment
began with fish dragging to shore.
On the undifferentiated tarn
vegetation supplanted rhizome with root
while horsetails sweated, leach and leak,
indifferent difference.
The miniature is an infection.
Out of algal, permeable bliss
jigged the zygote.
In halls lined with museum cabinets
I visit tree-tall pangaeaic swells
shrunk to a glassine envelope.
Look, I labeled sheaths upon the under-margins:
brittle teeth, heath-hidden, impregnable.
Now you’ve branches and no leaves.