Green ginger, also called wormwood, is the main ingredient of absinthe
Low it grows in scrubs, ditches,
sucking up puddled rain, old laundry water
into varicosed roots, settles quietly
and does not advertise: does not want to be found
on account of the fog, the uproar:
brewed to a milky pus and swallowed
by sad dancers, lovers’ lackeys, a dog or screw-eyed
dosser under a full moon’s florid bulb, it will erase
who you are, friend, like acid splashed on flesh:
nose, eyes, neck all gone: but the sear
is within, down the windpipe, through
sacs and polyps of your trembling soul:
I’ve seen women wake and sing out like wolves,
eyes yellow-flecked with lather, and men so
they know neither name nor home,
wandering their Land of Green Ginger, bare
and raw as the hour they were born, and as forgetting.
My father’s seen sometimes in the rail yard,
strewing yellow stems along the tracks.
Pippa Little is Scots and lives near the sea in Northumberland, North East England. Her collection Overwintering, from Carcanet Press in 2012, was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize. She is a Royal Literary Fellow at Newcastle University.