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In her window, a basket of garlic reaching for the sun.
She broke off one of its fat cloves and took the knife
to it, using the blade’s flat to mash the nub open;
then she peeled off the papery rind and there it was,
sending its quartered objections into the air,
disempowered and redolent.
I sat back in the shadows with my love, her son Pepe;
we sipped Latte di Mandorla and watched Mama
in her cooking dance: how she carefully took a knuckle
from butcher paper, sliding it into a boiling pot,
mincing fresh basil, crushing pomodori for the sauce.
We kissed, and longing surged in us and his tongue
was as tensile and searching as the garlic’s green
and inquiring foot, and I dared not touch the tendrils
of his desire then. But later, spent and laughing after dinner,
I kissed again his garlicky mouth, and much later, we wept
briny tears of rapture, rising to walk the edge of paradise,
the lolling Calabrian phosphor on the Strait of Messina.
I saw something arc through the air, and he said
it was the pesce spada, swordfish in rising-moon ardor.
I said within myself, with my poet’s heart, thinking
of Homer’s stunned walk in this very place,
That is Scylla herself, exulting in the tide that forces
garlic-stricken lovers into each other’s arms at all hours.
Soon I boarded a train north, away from Mama, Papa
and the babies lolling in everyone’s arms at dusk
in the kitchen; many years later, there is no trace
of them now, not even anything legible in a book
of names, as if I had conjured all of it from thin air,
my indoctrination into a hard, polished love
tinted by flash in the pan anger, like the pink
water-laved stones one finds in the surf,
la famiglia’s work-weary and serene faces
as we walked the garden.
This is what I remember now: all of them cloistered
in simplicity and resolve, like the purposeful garlic
in the window basket—sublimely impermanent,
sheathed in undaunted light.
copyright 2015 Jenne R. Andrews