Dear Savin, Rough Herb

is one of four tape letters in the series Belly full of blind highways / KAAP and Dear, / 2023

read more here

Lyric / Wendy Morris / 2022

Dear Savin, Roughe Herb, wild wort

We call to you from the Book of Blessings-in-Disguise,

from the Compendium of Female Pills and Other Poisons,

from the Cook-book of Putrid Fumigations,

the Chronicles of Frightening Brews,

from the Almanac of Awkward Questions,

the Encyclopedia of Obstructions

and the Digest of Digressions

We call to you from these Anthologies of Amnesia,

these Volumes of Forgetting,

this Library of Books Withdrawn,

we call to you from Time Immemorial

Your smell precedes you, Roughe Herb wild wort,

The stink of stale urine, a whip of leaves,

low growing, a pungent prickly plant

You know us, knew us, no longer know us

We knew you, no longer know you.

Yet, ancient is our association

Once we were openly connected

Wild Weed and Wandering Womb

Savin, they wrote, abortifacient of choice

excites menstruation, brings down the terms

helps the fits of the womb

promotes speedy delivery to pregnant women and draws away

the afterbirth

Cato knew about Savin.

Likewise did Dioscorides, that SAVIN drunk with wine will drive

out the Partum, the offspring, the thing of the womb.

And he was consulted for two thousand years.

Galen of Pergamon was concise.

Savin aborts.

The ancients make it quite clear.

She’s gone to the garden gay

To pluck of the savin tree

But for all that she could do or say

The babe it would not die

The aged nurse of Britomarts she gathered REW and SAVINE

She poured them in an earthen pot with CALAMINT and DILL

And to the brim with COLTWEED and CAMPHORA she did fill

That potent brew caused many drops of milk and blood to spill


and the Savin bushes in public gardens were fenced off

They criminalized you as a Fourth Schedule of Poison.

They cursed you as a diabolical drink.

Plant of the Damned.


Linnaeus, that misogynist Lutheran, said that women who use

savin are whores. And though they think their sin is secret, God

sees it.


Lucky Herb was what women called you. Find the savin bush

and you have the house of the midwife.

Maidy-bush, midwife’s herb. Tree of Life.

Women knew where you grew. Invisible hands still plucked at

your branches. But discretion had become desirable.

Whispers of wisdom. Quiet exchanges.

Roughe herb, wild wort

Accompany us once again

Wanton wenches, wayward wives, wandering wombs

We still have common cause