confessions from the apothecary


The woman at the apothecary wonders why I keep
returning, wandering aimlessly through the aisles
of lavender and rosemary and eucalyptus,
squinting up in all earnestness at the rows
of bottles and balms and oils as if something
was always calling my name in the smallest of voices
from the highest, farthest shelf. She wonders
what it is I am hoping to find. I’ve gotten close
enough to know her eyes are glassy islands
in a brown sea of wrinkles, close enough to know
her palms smell like musk, her lips cracked
like ginger and aged oak. Close enough to understand
that there are some losses that never really leave you.
Close enough to see that she’s tried to wash
it all away with bars of cedar soap, slather
a thick layer of salve over every latent ache. Heal.
I’ve asked her more than once if there’s any chance
a drop of chamomile can soothe my soul,
if the essence of freshly picked calendula will ever
bring you back. She smiles sometimes
but never answers. She hands me a new jar
every week, sealed tight with a cork, or maybe
it’s the same jar with a different label, pieces of paper
peeled off and pressed on in the hopes of revival, and
yet I never take it. I’ve made a habit out of
walking out empty-handed, choosing not to let
the promises of radiance and rejuvenation,
clarity and calm, permeate my skin, hair, nails.
Choosing not to believe. Not anymore. But maybe
someday I will try to slip a vial into my pocket
when she’s not looking, pretend I won’t get caught.
See just how much I can get away with
when I finally decide to get away.