Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Via Janet Shields' Pinterest Board

Not just radishes—but they are my
concern here, for they brought me
back to my grandpa’s pharmacy, to
the mysterious incantations on one
porcelain apothecary jar—in serifed
letters: “Avenum sativa.” I was five
and reading everything, the sides of
cereal boxes, the magazines my dad
bought for his office waiting room,
the words on these heirlooms from
our family pharmacopeia. I knew it
was not English on that jar, but ask?
I didn’t. Words and cities and years
went by, and somehow I picked up
that “Avenum” had a connection to
oatmeal, the kind that’d stop an itch,
but I didn't ask about “sativa,” which
then became shorthand for another
medicinal plant, and there the word
sat—until I thought to sow Raphanus
sativus on the bare patch in our yard,
until dream-radishes whispered to my
five year old self, “What does sativa
mean?" and years later, when I could
whisper back: “It means cultivated.”

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