Today's Story by Benjamin Wachs

My mother used chrysanthemums in a potion to catch my father


If you mix roses and cinnamon in with the blood of a woman thinking about her first kiss, heat in an iron pot over an open flame, and add spring water, the result is a love potion.

The other ingredients are constants, but if you change the flowers to lilies, the potion inspires platonic love:  someone who wishes to be near, but never to touch.

If you change the flowers to tulips, the potion creates a love that cannot last, burning itself out in unbearable bursts of passion, eventually leaving the lover exhausted, broken, and alone.

If you change the flowers to lilacs, the potion will inspire intense daydreams of the beloved, the kind that most of us never act on.

If you change the flowers to orchids, the potion will create a love that does not last beyond a single kiss.

My grandmother would whisper these recipes to me as I lay in my crib.  One day she told me that my mother had used chrysanthemums in a potion to catch my father, and that he in turn had brewed her a potion using carnations … and this is why they live in two very different marriages, never coming together but loving the only way they know how.

I learned the lesson, and brew my potions with sunflowers and drink them each time I give my heart away.  I wake up in the morning clean and innocent, as though I had never loved at all.


Benjamin Wachs has written for Village Voice Media,, and NPR among other venues.  He archives his work at

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