On all fours, I pull the wood sorrel
from the creeping jenny. Experts say
you can never get all its rhizomes and runners.
You will be on hands and knees every day,
they mean, and I won’t mind
so long as I can get back on my feet.
Sorrel means sour, not the bright
chestnut of the horse. Jenny comes from
chinny, for “chin cough”--we call it whooping--
and was used as a specific, not because
it worked, but because they had to try something
to keep the graveyard from filling with babies.
Everything with a name has a history
and a use. Soapwort. Purslane. Eat it, clean with it,
use it for ground cover. Use it for metaphor--
history, the thuggish rhizome in our garden.
We creep on all fours trying to remove it,
but it always comes back
and we somehow manage always
to get back up again--not all of us, I mean,
but some. Sorrel is for sorrow.
First published in North Carolina Literary Review Online 2021