Kim Roberts

The alchemist experiments
and repeats. See his bench:
alembics and crucibles,
tubes and mortars, bottles of alum,

cassia, aconite and nuxvomica.
Every compound starts simple:
herb, bark, or root. Take the healing
essence of fennel, saffron, rocket.

Then process: distill, sublimate,
evaporate, pulverize, strain,
cook, calcinate, condense.
The path to mastery is never straight.

He knows the quality of his drug
must correspond to the strength
of each disease. If the effect is not
replicable, it is accidental.

A good formulary evolves
because the Holy Prophet foretold:
God creates no malady
without also offering a cure.

Kim Roberts is the author of A Literary Guide to Washington, DC: Walking in the Footsteps of American Writers from Francis Scott Key to Zora Neale Hurston (University of Virginia Press, 2018), and five books of poems, most recently The Scientific Method (WordTech Editions, 2017). She co-edits the journal Beltway Poetry Quarterly and the web exhibit DC Writers’ Homes. Roberts has been the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Humanities DC, and the DC Commission on the Arts, and has been a writer-in-residence at 18 artist colonies. Poems of hers have been featured in the Wick Poetry Center’s Traveling Stanzas Project, on the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day Project, and on podcasts sponsored by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her website: