Violet Lullaby

Today has been all kinds of purple.

Dropping off an elderberry syrup to a friend in the morning. Then finding a large patch of chokeberry which stained up my hands pretty inky. I foraged maybe 4lbs. and there was still so much more.

After that, we went hopping on stones in a creek. I was drawn to a weeping willow, under which I gathered a handful of shiso.

And I met heal-all for the first time.

Apparently the plants with purple leaves absorb more green light, and the green leafed plants absorb more red and blue light.

Seems kind of backwards, but what do I know. I turn 8 shades of pink red and white when I absorb whatever light.

Oh, and last night I made a salve using coconut oil infused with lavender.

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Beauty Is Only Skin Deep

I'm having all these plant experiences that I'm finding trouble articulating.

I think it's because I feel flooded with them. Like every time I step into some place of nature, there are all these wild beings tugging at my heart, calling to my feet, entrancing my eyes.

For instance, thistle. It is hella prickly. It's poky. It's sticky not like glue but sticky like it'll stick you like a thorn. But when I get stuck by thistle, the feeling isn't localized to the place it sticks me, it's more of this tingling flush that runs across the entirety of my whole skin. A flashing bash of goosebumps. Like shiver me timbers! Shake me down. Wake me up! And then it's gone.

It's in the name. Thistle. It just momentarily, so sweetly, stings.

Kind of like stinging nettle. With nettle, though, the sting is incredibly localized to the area the plant rubs the skin. There's this constant feel like a bee unleashing a small fury. Unlike thistle again, the stinging nettle sticks around. The acute pain of it dissipates after a few minutes, but a few hours later, if it stang you on the fingertips, and you grab a cool glass of ice, there's that biting reminder of picking up nettle by the stem or leaf contacting skin stinging stanging stung.

The first time I experienced nettle, I went all in. We were bagging it up for half an hour. Granted, it had been in a refrigerator for awhile, so the sting wasn't as fresh as picked right off the ground. At first, I liked it. It woke my hands up with a harsh bristle. And we continued to grab a bunch and bag it, grab a bunch and bag it, grab a bunch and bag it. One after the other. Monotonous, lively stinging, and the workday continued on, we accomplished other tasks, and I forgot about it. The sting flew off. But to my great chagrin, at the end of the day, I pulled out my phone, and as I'm checking messages and perusing social media, my hands start burning a hellfire blaze. I tried to ignore it, but it just welled up and took me over. I put on chamomile and lavender oils. I breathed deep breaths, deep deep breaths. I muttered and cursed. I walked around mad as hell like an inflamed jack ass spewing steam from my ears bursting at the fxcking seams. What in the grand scheme of hell was I thinking? But then it occurred to me, What if I bathed in it? What if it lit up my whole body? It must be some temporary supernatural superpower. Like selling your soul to the devil. To embody the flesh so deeply you feel the pain of plants. But how would I channel it if ever I decided to do it? Where would it go? I imagined the shamans who eat mushrooms, who dance to drumming, who sing their icaros, who dispense powerful prayerful medicines to the sick and ailing, I imagined the ones who eat hot peppers so hot it triggers them into an altered state of consciousness, and there must be someone throughout the history of time who dug so foolishly deep they wound up with a body invigorated lit up driven mad stinging stanging sting stang stung stooged wielding as a ceremonial tool the oft avoided thrashing fire skin of flaming nettle.

I'm reminded of the monk who poured gasoline on his body and meditated into a fiery death in protest of the Vietnam War.

Side not: Where are all the disciplined radicals willing to risk life and limb?

They must be buried deeply within our own skin, perhaps too suppressed, paralyzed, zombified, fascistically dead, too diluted by the drugs of modern society to find expression, the fear of leaving status quodom keeping a strangled chokehold.

Who knows?

We’re not terribly wild anymore. But still, the wild urge is locked away like the ancestors waiting to be honored. Like the plants screaming out to be respected and stewarded.

You ever get wrapped up in Japanese hops? The vines cling to the skin like cleavers cling to the clothing. They leave marks like an animal clawing at your arm. The cuts don’t run all too deep, but they sure make an impression on the body’s memory.

I'm thankful, for one, I've never experienced the poison kiss of ivy. A few close people in my life have been susceptible, especially recently, and as of now I can only experience the second-hand ferocity of painful itching the uncontrolled desire to scratch and rip away the skin to come crawling out shedding layers like a snake growing wings a feathered serpent flying from the burden & the beauty of being human.

It seems we are victims of our own material weight. We are trapped in matter. The slightest plant wreaking havoc on our fragile dermas. We are so unweathered in modern society.

To think, our protective layer is so thin.
To think, we construct judgments based on color.
To think, are we really all so shallow?

On the flip side, isn’t it a wonder we are blessed with the temple body in the first place? Is there not pleasure in being touched by a loved one? The way it flutters our insides and arouses heat across the skin. To embrace, push, and press. To want to know the body of another through the experience of our own embodiment.

Clearly, I feel that way about plants too.

My friend was telling me about magic mushrooms, how we ingest them for many reasons but especially because we long for a sense of blissed out interconnectivity, a pure flooding of awe and understanding, and how, really, it’s reciprocal, because the mushrooms want to experience the carnality of being human too.

Under the Spell of Nervines

It’s soupy outside. Like honey and molasses. Like hot mud. The sun keeps crushing me. It turned me into a puddle like the wicked witch of the west. I melted and the sun sucked me off the ground. Through the air I flew straight pass the moon and pass those inner planets. Now I’m burning in that fiery goodness. That fiery goddess got me in a spell of wordy worships.


We went for a hike today in Wissahickon. I took off my shoes. Touched the ground. Sole to soul. It was relieving to feel the earth underfoot. The compacted soil absorbed my steps, and the networks of fungi heard me coming from several if not hundreds of feet away. Ghost pipe popped out into my vision field. I immediately sat with it, and it asked to be harvested. I’ve found it growing a number of times, but haven’t up until this point lifted it from the ground. It felt right. It felt full of mystery and intrigue. That’s usually how I know it’s time. When I’m on the edge of falling in. Right on the precipice. When I can sink my mind in easily and absorb what the plant has to offer. There’s some kind synergy at play. Cross specie telepathy. I left a good bit of the ghost pipe alone. Ethical harvesting always in the back of my conscience.

The ghost pipe looks just like that. Like an opaque pipe. They grow in what I’d like to call a village. Clumped up together like a band of little huts. It’s a plant, but it doesn’t produce chlorophyl, so it never gets green. Since it doesn’t produce its own food, it feeds off of the mycelial growth of mushrooms, and the mushrooms feed off the roots of trees. So in a sense, the ghost pipe is an epi-parasite. A parasite of a parasite. Which is really interesting when considering its medicinal action: It helps relieve pain, but it doesn’t get rid of the pain. It allows you to “feel” the pain but ignore it. Like getting outside your body to witness what is happening but not partaking in it. Like an out of body experience. Like becoming a ghost. And it has this similar action on emotional pain: It allows the person to see & engage the pain instead of turning away from it because it so deeply hurts.


Disclaimer: I’ve not experienced this for myself with regards to ghost pipe, I’ve only been reading about it. But it makes a lot of sense to me, like I’ve known it for years, because I’ve worked with psychedelics and meditation. That sense of “being beside one’s self” is all too familiar. Ekstasis. It’s where the word ecstasy derives from.

But what I find really curious is that these similar plants are coming into my life right around the same time. Plants that work on deep hurt. Deep wounds. The wounds that are forgotten about because they seem so long gone, but out of nowhere, or so it seems, they give rise and ravage the sleeper from passive dreams into conscious action to heal.

St. John’s Wort is one of those other plants I found recently. Hypericum perforatum. I found it growing wild for the first time ever. It was alongside the railroad tracks in my hometown. It jumped out at me like, “Hey! Would you like a helping hand? How about some of that fiery golden sun absorbed & redistributed into my bright yellow flowers! And when you crush my petals, I’ll bleed a maroon blood on your hands…” It works in that way, on the nerves and on the metaphorical blood. The life force. It helps lift one out of mild depressions, re-directing one’s inner fire, re-aligning the will. I harvested it under the full moon, the gusting wind and rainstorm that blew in beforehand still wet on its leaves. I let it dry out into the next day, then bottled it up with apple cider vinegar and honey. I’m planning on waiting until after the autumn equinox to crack it open in hopes that it crushes me like the sun when the darkness of days is full tilt in the winter valley.


I also bottled up the ghost pipe, but instead of acv, I used one hundred proof vodka. I don’t plan on using it. But I’m sure I will. I guess I’m already working with it. I don’t know why I took it home with me in the first place. It just called on me to save its spirit. Perhaps I need it more than I realize, like I’m entering a deep searching and realization of my own traumatic experience growing up in America. It’s heavy when so many people fly the flag ignoring the war machine that devastates both the home front and the world stage. When I walk downtown, I see all these people wearing flag shirts and other propaganda paraphernalia. When I walk around the suburbs, everyone has a flag marking their home like it needs to be stated: “I am a nationalist and this is America!” That seems to be the lynchpin for patriotism. It’s the forefront of discussion, how complicit are you? The more complicit, the more American. Apparently.

But, come on. We have a problem with healthcare.

Really though. It’s absurd. It’s got that clownish quality to it. We have a major healthcare problem. You don’t know if it’s laughable or so sad you just want to burst like a cloud. So you do both. All of it too real. It’s surreal. All the feels right in the gut. Right in the heart. You want to love everything to death, and death everything to life. Start it all over. Revolutionize the whole damn thing.

And none of us are untouched. That’s for sure. And because of that, it’s nice to have plant allies along for the journey, especially when it gets so treacherous or too much to face.

In my younger years I often walked a path of escapism while calling it freedom, and I see that pattern arising here and there in my adulthood. Don’t get me wrong, I think we all need some rest and relaxation, restoration and rejuvenation. We need to take care of ourselves. Time to slowly experience the intricacies unraveling. To sip sweetly the cup of life. That’s why I take to the woods. Take off my shoes and commune with the plants. So when I come back to the city, I’m a bit more ready to deal with the oppression of brick and wires, the concrete hard like the weight of jack hammers in the early morning, pounding sound in the ears, cramped up density of people stressed out & worked to the bone, which goes hand-in-hand with the constant, drastic change of the climate, politically speaking, environmentally speaking, socially, culturally, and spiritually. The streets are in heat. The war isn’t that far away. It’s a click away for some. It’s a step out the door for others. And if we have a pulse connected to the source, we feel the pain that too many endure.

Like, it’s hard to believe, but not surprising at this point, so many black people are still getting brutalized & murdered by police, and at the same time, so many people are still going about their days like the American dream is supreme.

It’s a broken record.

A broken record that needs repeating until the masses are moved. And there are too many broken records in this country.

But all that being brought up, the change is like this heat. Soupy. Running like molasses. Slow like honey. Insufferable. Thick and swampy like you just want to sit home naked in front of the fan with a cool glass of cucumber and ice. But you can only do that for so long. Because there is work to do. Because the plants are calling. Because people are taking to the streets and calling for simple things like sanity. Caring. Love. For politicians to get their hands out of their greedy pockets, to take a minute to stand outside themselves, to see what’s going on in the world, to give a fuck about the planet and people. But until that happens, we’re making waves in little ways, organizing ourselves, rooting deeply together, growing like little villages of plants and mushrooms. Feeding one another. Inspiring. Nourishing souls.

headstones anonymous as barcodes

row homes flash tv screen luminance
entertainment & news

sidewalks covet used needles
& scratched lottery tickets

empty beer bottles pile up like bullet casings

trees loom large and cast shadows

a murder of crows
a murder of

American flags
& police sirens

in a neighborhood park
people gather to praise Jesus,
his image on a banner
bloody & crying

we put our faith in so many dark places

in the dead of the night,
the junkies move like zombies
& the crackheads move like ghosts

fireworks bang in the sky

there’s a reclaimed lot burning a bonfire
the sparks fly into the stars

Mulberry trees scatter the outskirts of the lot. There are no gates to keep people out, only fences bordering two sides to denote other peoples’ properties. The place is overridden with mugwort, and on any given weekday, birds and random litter occupy the space.

It feels wild & gritty.

The Philly Socialists built the garden, an effort headed by an organizer from Colombia. Her name is Mara. There are five raised beds, a picnic table, a wooden archway, a large sign, a rain barrel, discarded tires, and a small, open-air roofed-over area.

Somehow Mara got into contact with Cesar and his family, who are from Mexico. They do Aztec dance-performances donning full regalia: loincloths, tribal face paint, medicine shakers, and headdresses made from feathers, feathers, feathers, and more feathers. One headdress even incorporates a stuffed deer head. It’s truly a sight to behold.

I was pleasantly surprised when I showed up at the garden and they were there to bless the grounds. Drums, whoops & yells, chanting, and conch shells resounded the air. They brought corn to plant as well, so I went back home to retrieve the extra vegetable plants at our house.

When I returned to the garden, Mara and I borrowed a truck to take a trip to Home Depot to pick up garden tools and extra soil.

It amazes me how fluid & trusting people can be. Here is a group of strangers coming together, more or less spontaneously, to accomplish a common goal. Namely, building up a garden. & Everyone’s sharing resources. Not only that (and this is kind of a separate tangent because I saw a couple folks at Home Depot), it amazes me how many friends I run into on a regular basis. I haven’t lived in this area for like 6 years, but it’s like I never left. A few weeks back, a friend was picking up food at an Indian place we were walking by, and he yelled from down the street, “Jozef Maguire, Philadelphia welcomes you back to the neighborhood!” It warmed my heart. & Granted, my dad lives in the area, and I have friends who throw art shows and poetry readings around town, so it’s not like I’ve been completely absent or on the other side of the world, but still, it’s heart warming & unexpected.

I guess this is community. I say it loosely, because that’s how it is. There are core groups who grind together & create more intimacy, but at the end of the day, there are so many people living in the city, and the loose connections that reoccur on the outer edges and slowly strengthen help to create the larger picture. The myth of a city is important. It gives everyone a story to connect to & explore.

The interesting thing about America is (and this is ever present in her cities), there are a variety of myths.

The next block over from the garden, a Puerto Rican festival was taking place. They were bumping music & the smell of BBQ drifted in the air. The whole atmosphere was one of celebration.

There was a PBS film-maker there too. He shot video. He’s been following Cesar around to document his life & work. Most recently, Cesar painted a mural dedicated to Pope Francis’s visit to Philly.

Cesar is a sturdy, squat, unassuming man originally from Mexico. He has long hair and a greying mustache & goatee. He expresses his appreciation & gratitude more often than most people I know. And he does so in such a way that it feels natural and humble. There’s no bravado involved.

It’s a good reminder.

After the dancing, we collectively planted the vegetables & Cesar lit a chalice of incense and swept the smoke over the plants as he said a prayer to the rain, to the earth, to the seedlings, to the corn.

IMG_1523

I don’t know how I find these happenstances in life, but it resonates with me deeply. I don’t know what my role is exactly, but I often feel like an agent of change, and if the transformation has already been kick-started, I often feel like a silent force, like a wind that helps push the ship across choppy, unpredictable seas.

To be literal, I’m a gardener tending to the growth of plants.

There was a clay pot that held a special significance. We transferred water from the rain barrel to the pot. Right away it felt different from what we usually use: a tiny, plastic watering can that is most likely a toy meant for kids. The bottom is yellow and the top is pink. It’s playful & practical, but it feels less ceremonious than the clay pot.

When everyone left, there were a few of us who stuck behind: Jeff, a punk & carpenter from West Philly, Mara, the organizer from the socialist group, and Cesar, the artist. Jeff told us about a Latino punk festival that occurs in NYC midsummer, and perhaps, when they pass through Philly, he’ll get to work on organizing a mini festival. That excited everyone. The conversation spurred on, and we talked about reaching out to neighbors who live in adjacent buildings, and perhaps, we can paint murals on their empty walls.

I get the feeling these folks are dreamers & activists. Like the seed that turns to plant that turns to flower that turns to fruit, there’s a grounded-ness to the whole chronicle.

CCQM7177

Reggaeton bouncing & bumping in passing cars, city blocks momentarily transform into dance halls and clubs. A simple pleasure fleeting.

It’s funny to see men doing roadwork on streets with yellow signs indicating children at play. Beneath the sign sit the workers’ empty lunch boxes. Meanwhile, they maneuver big yellow trucks pushing rocks and asphalt. A few guys stand off to the side. They admire the job and give words of direction. The world feels like a giant sandbox at times.

There’s a wheat paste of a woman with a simple statement written beneath her portrait, “You can keep your thoughts on MY BODY to yourself.”

Three old men sit on a ledge waiting for a bus. They look picture perfect, the morning light just right & angelic. I ask to snap a pic. One guy immediately says no. Another follows in suit shaking his head. The third gives me a boyish smile and a little shrug as if to say, “I don’t mind a photo, I’d actually enjoy one.”

The thunderstorms that roll in remind me of shadows from another world. The warm rain smells like Saturday mornings waking up late, drinking coffee, and reading old novels.

Some mornings we make breakfast. Some evenings we walk to dinner. I know she’s happy when she sings in the shower.

There’s a wall nearby with graffiti that reads loud & clear STOP THE VIOLENCE.

On the weekends, the neighbors around the corner sit outside and play dominoes.