Scrophularia laevis

Organ Mountain figwort
Allison Layfield



For protection. Under the light of a nearly

full moon, by the darkness in the heart

of the canyon, pluck this pouty protector

in August, find the flower not showy

dull red to greenish brown, fertile stamens


and pour from its lip all that has gathered—dust,

cockroach droppings, any desperate water

not burned away by daylight.


For purification. Find the leaves obtuse,

coarsely and unevenly thin, scarcely if at all

paler beneath, and add them to tea, for figwort


travels through rivers of lymph,

dispelling and dispersing stagnation.

Here in the Organs, ingest its leaves and all

those lost in the desert will shine in the dark.


To cast protection for the future.

Tear the stems, slender, bright, glabrous,

erect, simple and place the weak,

spreading branches between your teeth


while travelling the moist canyons of quartz,

the juniper woodland, then grind the stems and skin of

flowers into paste to paint the forehead of someone

far from home. Then the mountain will provide


as it does for the figwort a great amount of protection

and their body will leave behind the ghosts and

the mountain will not ask

from which direction they come.



*italicized words found in the New Mexico Rare Plant Council’s taxonomy report (2005) and in the original description of the species done in 1906 by Wooton and Standley.




Allison Layfield is from northern California, and her poetry has been published in Delirious Hem, New Delta Review, and Lingerpost. She received her MFA from New Mexico State University, and her PhD in 20th and 21st Century American literature from Purdue University. She lives, writes and works in Las Cruces, New Mexico.