To Sasha in early February



To Sasha in early February

                 Antidote for a sulfite allergy


Refrain from having cordials, yet be cordial when declining his offer,

look Maraschino cherries in the eye before you push your hands deep

into your dress pockets. Everything loose in you begins to congeal

under the skin. Your wants are wide, softly pass the pastry filled bites,

no second glances to goat cheese balls, intoxicatingly pink salmon,

thin Manchego slices, jamon Serrano shreds. Cold cuts are for the

other people’s palates, you Thermomix your mouth into obedience,

stash all those shivers down your spine into the breadbox, for that is

salvation. Actually, think bread when your date tells you to go down

on him, cum is scientifically vegan, nothing artificial whatsoever, let’s

ditch this place. He is skinny and tactile, green orb eyes like Greek olives,

has finished two glasses of Pinot Grigio, his anchovy breath makes your

nipples hard and you’d mention the galloping horse behind your sternum

if you could just have a taste of the pickled cocktail onions he nibbled on

with his left hand, the other one on your knee, the weight of your cravings

bottled up in your right popliteal fossa, throbbing behind the silky stockings,

yes, think safe bread again. Garlic smeared focaccia, airy milk buns, leavened

sourdough, the floured table in The Postman always rings twice, tell him

by whispers of your hunger, caught between rebellion and conformity.




The throaty croak of dawn, a washed-out sun hung limp

in the sky. The skin of this poem ready to hatch. From


the pit of nightly labors, rosy veins running the shores

of sleep, roof moss and dewy lashes, words peel one thigh


from the waxed cushions of slumber and I want to skip

brushing my teeth, cuddling back against your bare back,


and motherly hold them into my mouth as my hand fumbles

for the pen you engraved with my name, a reminder of the


way they attend us in the tiniest grand gestures. Later, paths,

pulses will make a jordan out of the plump page and I will


find you by the window, sipping cold coffee, smoking

gauloises, gracious enough to enter this room of revisions


where the poem shall stand split open, meandering entrails

laid on the kitchen table, my tongue ready to smooth it over.



              What occasionally makes sense


I might be just like my mother’s mother for all I know.

Sharp-tongued and making things up as they come along.


Words, grape juice, meals. Tonguing her teeth before

chopping onion to make ostropel de pui cu mămăliguță.


To be eaten around the three-legged wooden table,

our backs bent over the steaming pot. In the plum tree


in front of the summer kitchen, a magpie eyeing the little

chicks roaming along the red hen. Some inviting promise


in their rousing yellow and the bird knows it. She hungers

to name it. This craving that fills the tender July air, still


with flavors and lures. We are all women of appetites

in this house. Grandma makes must every fall, crushing


dark and white fruit by hand. We drink it the next day,

sediment and froth, and eat pastramă with it. My mother


cuts the mutton in thin slices, rubs salt, pepper, chili

and thyme against it. Rolls it up, keeps it cool for days


in a row. Then it hangs in the afumătoare where the aroma

tingles my nostrils and gives me goose bumps. Later, the three


of us breaking bread as evening comes chattering down

and this very alphabet of love blooms into our veins. 


When morning comes, I crave to smell my mother’s smell,

all honeycomb, vinegar and exhaustion. The crook of her neck


is where this intoxication begins, every purple morning,

for the next thirty years. I will then wake up to a mouthful


of needles whose wholeness won’t stay put, much as I bleed

my way through their eyes. Slivers of past conversations, gestures


and wouldas nest under every fold of skin. Vast tomorrows lay

ahead, jottings of poems scratch at every white corner and not even


a daughter can give me back the pleasure of the mouth, the seduction

of endless noons filled with albă-ca-zăpadă, salată de vinete,

the in-between hugs and shared layers of fatigue, natter and laughter.

Except my daughter wears your calves the same way, and grandma


reminds me every Saturday when I visit of the way hunger never

apologizes and that there are no rooms in our bodies without ghosts.


       To Sasha in early February

Let me imagine you will grow back

into tiny feet and perky giggle, tasting

sand from the back of your hand while

I watch asphalt burst with heat, the husk

of August cracking with the burden of

the cerulean blue, juicy half peaches

on the napkin next to me, trying to hold

on to the faint glow of the late afternoon

before you are one step closer to radiant

cheekbones, velvet lipstick, a knot of

scratchy moods, wishing to be a girl in

the city, no longer curling into me like

a question as I whisper, one inch from

your ear, milky moon dripping over

the Barbie sheets, a litany of soft things.




Notes: ostropel de pui cu mămăliguță, pastramă, albă-ca-zăpadă, salată de vinete -Romanian dishes

must -grape juice

afumătoare -smokehouse