Marilyn Westfall

At the Ventnor Botanic Garden, 
Isle of Wight

This garden of steeply terraced 
exotics—Japanese banana trees, 
blue-eyed South African 
cape daisies, Australian bottlebrush 
and minty eucalyptus, Canary Islands 
echium with towering cones 
of amethyst blooms—breathes

through stomata and lenticels 
with an ease that patients 
once treated here for phthisis 
at a now demolished hospital 
could hope to regain, prescribed 
isolation with complete rest, 
tonics, tinctures, analgesics, liniments

from hemlock, clove, desert gourd, 
Icelandic moss, East African aloes, 
ginger root, myrrh, the bark of Bolivian 
cinchona trees, the undried seedpods 
of poppy flowers, and cannabis leaves. 
Their private sickrooms opened 
to balconies that overlooked

twelve-meter tall Chusan palms, gifts 
from Queen Victoria, hardy evergreens. 
Afternoons, those strong enough to sit 
would sunbathe and recover a healthy 
color. The air was pure, salt scented; 
the climate likened to Italy’s. Waves 
whispered from The English Channel.

Today the heat approaches thirty, 
Celsius. Chihuahuan desert native, 
I sweat hiking uphill to familiar succulents. 
Agave americana spreads gray shadows 
like monstrous tongues; prickly pear bulges 
with tuna mauve as bruises. Far below, a patch 
of fog drifts inland, soft as gauze.

Marilyn Westfall wanders between two Texas towns: Lubbock where she heads The Ad Hoc Writers group, and Alpine where her husband plays music and her daughter operates a telescope at the McDonald Observatory. She earned a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from Texas Tech University. Family roots extend to Ohio and California. Her most recent poetry appears online in Califragile, and has been anthologized by Dos Gatos Press, Mutabilis Press, and was included in The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume VIII: Texas.