May 2014

Agnus Castus

          by  Cammy Thomas


Agnus castus, “chaste lamb,” long-limbed shrub

in my neighbor's yard.  Known from antiquity, it lifts

its purple spears to the hummingbirds.  The ocean

is not far, the air buzzing and salty, bees

from the hive up the hill buried in every bloom. 


Chaste lamb, Abraham's balm, monk's pepper

from the Mediterranean, it visits this colder climate

to shake our frozen muscles and remind us

to stay pure.  The bees may milk it, flavor their

honey with it, but for us, it's always upright.


Its leaves like hands, five on a bract,

a perfect, neutral green, a color-wheel

green, calm and plain.  They shift in the wind

as the bees come off and resettle.  The trunk

is slender and lit by low sun. 

Could I grow this pure, this straight,

this beautifully colored, so effortlessly--

just the sun and there I would be, reaching

without striving, watered by a benevolent

spirit who can appear and disappear

while I remain rooted, extending

upward yearly from my fertile bed.



Cammy Thomas’ first book of poems, Cathedral of Wish, received the 2006 Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. Her second book, Inscriptions, will be out in October, 2014. Both are published by Four Way Books. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Appalachia, Bateau, The Classical Outlook, The Healing Muse, and Ibbetson Street Press #30. She lives in Lexington, Massachusetts, and teaches English at Concord Academy.