Below is Part 18 of 23 monthly installments for Visitant.
Four Eyes in accordion folds peer at Agnes and her hair, wavy with wind-blown Stars and Stripes for Independence Day, the Fourth of July. Agnes is back on the mat with her old shrink, Dr. Wanda Winkle.
Lab tests indicate low metaphor, Doctor Wink reports. Too much Singapore Simile.
Double U x 2 needs a skin trim, thinks Agnes, counting the doctor’s wrinkles.
Seek stability of three-legged stool, chants the Wand, her face like a fallen rolodex. Work on trinities. See you next time, 3 pee em shar-puh.
Agnes flees down endlessly opening halls to an expensive florist with herbal boutique. Tired of chalking boundaries, she buys a remaindered book on plants fallen from glory. She opens to Algae. Sea wrack, kelp, reminds Agnes of sea wreck — white baby shoes and brown leather luggage washed up on the tide. Wrong, leathery brown Laminaria saccharina is happy seaweed, source of mannitol, dried to dust chewing gum white. From her vantage of freelance hair, Agnes admires the durability of sea wrack, some fronds as long as football fields, end-to-end cells indifferent of zones, cheerleaders, rules. Ancient Chinese used sea wrack to break up breast tumors. Agnes gives a shout-out for cancer wreckers. Brava! Bravo! Some men, too, are breast cancer survivors.
Agnes flips the pages to Lichens, lungs of oak, Pseudevernia prunastri, alga and fungus in commensal relationship of photosynthesis and cellulite support, hmm, friendship of light and form. Arabic homemakers, she reads on, grind lungs of oak to leaven bread, breathe life into flabby dough, dye woolens plum color, scent lotions.
Agnes wonders if lungs of oak would scent wax. She remembers a school friend named Violet. The grandmother called the child Zehrey, Arabic for something from the forest floor that smells good. Tree tripe, lungs of oak, sweet breath.
Agnes thumbs through the Angiosperms to page 333, Ruscus aculeatus. She recognizes the picture of box holly with tiny bluish flowers, glossy red berries, and spine tips. The flat green stems called cladodes have anti-inflammatory properties, a possible upgrade for Dr. Wrinkles’s eyestalks.
Agnes learns temperate Europeans treated menses, piles, and chilblains with box holly, a Eurasian species. Butchers used long cladodes to sweep the block of scraps from the day’s best cuts. Box holly is worthy, thinks Agnes, although she no longer wishes to eat meat until after the baby is born. At home, she will weave hair extensions of dried alga, lichen, and cladodes for breast wellness, lungs of oak, and healthy placental growth. She’ll wear them to remind the world of the role of plants in bloody animal tasks.
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