There was a little girl who wore oak leaves in her hair
red berries round her milk-white neck, and a crazy stare.
Her dress was made of lace which hung like mist around her feet
and round her wrists an amethyst as purple as her blood.
Her mother gave her silver charms, fox robes with silken hems
led her to the harvest ball and pushed her to the men.
The first young suitor held her hand, breathed on her milk-white chest
stroked her brow and nipped her ear and squeezed her sapling wrist.
The next one stroked her apple breasts, undid her tangled hair
undid ever knot and leaf, then threw her in the air.
A gentleman from London town strung opals round her neck
the opal beads shone ghostly blue, he fled the tears she shed.
Another took her for a ride along an oak-lined street,
strung her up and made her swing then left her in retreat.
‘You’ll find one soon,’ her mother said, ‘you never should give up,’
and gave her diamonds faceted to blind men into shape.
The diamond edges spread her image splintered round the walls
and no man dared approach her as she flashed her muted calls.
So this was Woman, this was Man: she killed her dreams of love,
bit her lip and swallowed hard and donned her kid-skin gloves.
Still she wears the amethyst, the fox fur robes and lace
still she lines the ballroom walls, a blood-red stare, with grace.
Now she flings the hawthorn berries tight around her neck
thorns facing outwards to keep the men in check.
Still she flashes amethyst against the harvest sun
silver round her see-through skin and diamonds in her tongue.
For no-one told her, no-one warned, that men come and go
love a little, lick you clean, take away your glow.
Guns to the sky, musket-ears,
jackets blazing, husky limbs,
scarlet epaulettes set in tiers,
amber buttons ready to burst.
On your marks, in formation, maize stands erect
like upright soldiers, drilled to give their best.
They bend to orders when the south wind blows,
defy whatever weed or worm
challenges their strength and their will to serve.
Equipped and alert to feed the hungry
battle-weary world in waiting
while their ladies stand behind the lines
wave in the wind while they bide their time.
Maize, also known as corn, (L. Zea mays) was first domesticated in Southern Mexico 4,000 years ago. Research has shown it is highly adaptable, and thus capable of dealing with climate change. It was brought over to Europe between 1750-1850 and became the staple diet of peasants in Mediterranean countries. However, maize lacks lysine and tryptophan – amino acids – needed to produce proteins, and its niacin (vitamin B3) is coated in an indigestible complex. To break down this complex, the Mayans and Aztecs boiled maize in alkaline limewater to release the niacin, but this practice wasn’t continued by the settlers in the New World, nor by those in Europe (the ‘Old World’), resulting in epidemics of Pellagra as of the 16th century onwards.
Life threatening diseases such as Kwashiorkor (signs:rotting – and loss of – teeth, dermatitis, depigmentation, thinning hair, swollen abdomen, enlarged liver), are unfortunately still present in poorer, under-developed countries.
The Cherokee and Mohegan tribes in North America used corn as a salve for skin problems. The Navajos used it as a treatment for sore throats, and the leaves were used in a mixture for the Night Chant medicine. The Tewa also used it to treat glandular swelling in the neck, and mixed blue cornmeal and water for palpitations and chest pains; black corn with red streaks served as gynaecological aids.