In the description of the Missouri Botanical Garden entry Inula helenium, a delicate-looking yellow flower, like a thin, spindly sort of sunflower, is described as native to Asia and Europe but “naturalized in disturbed sites, roadsides and waste places in parts of eastern North America from Nova Scotia to Minnesota south to North Carolina and Missouri” (Missouri Botanical Garden, Inula Helenium, 2018). I want to take a road trip with you. To seek out all of the disturbed and the waste places from Nova Scotia to Minnesota and North Carolina to Missouri and pick the flowers of inula helenium and press them books about libraries and leave them in bookshops. Because this is what I imagine you do. I think love could give it meaning. Inula helenium. Also called horse-heal or elfdock. How perfect! I’m post-hoc articulating this as a nod to your evident elfishness. We conceive a child on the road, sleeping in the back of the van at a rest area in Ontario. The kind of child who would want us to hold him under a tree on an autumn day and point out colors, saying, “that’s bronze, that’s gold, that’s the deep, deep red of wine.” He’d have pointy ears, he’d have a twisting little smile. Inula helenium. Its name is derived from Helen of Troy. Said to have sprung from the earth where her tears fell. Sometimes I wonder if we’re using each other. I want to plant a copy of the Illiad packed with a dozen pressed seed packets of inula helenium, right in the sideyard cemetery of an abandoned farm place in rural Indiana. I want it to grow and spread and I want the updated entry in the Missouri Botanical Garden to read: “naturalized in disturbed sites, roadsides and waste places in parts of eastern North America from Nova Scotia to Minnesota south to North Carolina and Missouri and one patch near Plymouth, Indiana.” Inula Helenium. It was mentioned in an 1817 New England almanack as a cure for hydrophobia, when the root was bruised and used with a strong decoction of milk.
Craig Finlay lives in South Bend, Indiana, where he spends most of his time doing library things. He has an MA in English from Western Illinois University and is currently pursuing a creative writing-track MA from Indiana University South Bend, where he is also a full time faculty member. His poems have appeared in Noble/Gas Qtrly, The Beloit Poetry Journal, After the Pause and The Blue Mountain Review. His poem 'Four Winds Field,' in the Spring 2017 issue of Twyckenham Notes, was shortlisted for the Sundress Publications Best of the Net Award.