Thursday, December 6, 2007

Lemon Balm

We have lemon herbs
in our garden -
thyme, verbena
and “creeping” balm
that sneaks along under
the ground,
rooting haphazardly through
chamomile, pennyroyal, or rue,
and, no doubt,
the neighbors’ yards too,
ubiquitous as comfrey
or bamboo.
Year after year
we try to dispose
of the volunteers of balm.
Lemon verbena and thyme
grow where they’re planted,
scent our linen,
or add flavor to chicken,
but lemon balm
spreads like an epidemic,
its downy, mint-green leaves
like tiny profile cutouts
of sugar-maple trees,
on tough-as-a-chain, square stems,
impossible to break.
In some ways, though, it’s a delicacy:
It blooms in your mouth,
and makes fragrant tea.

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