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.