Garlic

First Clove

the smell of garlic is the beginning of everything and in every beginning is a scent of the end

I am seeking my beginnings  in the soil of shifting lands I dig for garlic taproots thirty generations deep to hold my hands 

Second Clove

you know you need a knife  to cut off the head many heads should be cut off but this one is allowed garlic forgives its beheading a sacrifice  to all who dwell in aprons  over gas hobs firing up magic  revealing their secrets over steaming pots and pans

it is true I was there with my grandmother I saw the paper-thin protective layers shed  to naked raw questions let the garlic speak in oil splattering and splashing my hands like hers  riddled us with silver scorch marks the spreading rivers of Eden

Third Clove

I tear up at the thought of garlic my grandmother wore it around her neck if you live and eat and cook garlic for long enough it becomes your perfume

I peel its almost translucent skin to its sticky inner self the viscid texture clings to my fingers  I carry its aroma hands grasping the steering wheel as I fetch my kids from school

I cook lunch for them following my grandmother’s incantations her daily schedule clean cook chicken with turmeric and garlic rest welcome children home with overflowing pots only I don’t rest  and I weep because with no grandmother  to chop the garlic small and toss into the hot frying pan to chant blessings  with full moons of onion be beautiful be happy discard your bruised skin let the head of garlic be your crown

Fourth Clove

I break this bulb bare its whiteness  marbled with purple streaks  I feel the papery thin veil of yesterday crumble under my seeking fingers smell the sweat  of my grandmother’s fear as she closes one suitcase for her family of seven  boarding the plane  from Baghdad to Israel I still smell the tent mud the DDT the rain washing away  the displaced the misplaced

the garlic cooks too fast too soon golden brown like my grandmother’s skin

Fifth Clove

am I the fruit of garlic or the shell my grandmother didn’t believe in waste waste is a sin she picked up every shred and held me in her fingers rough burnt cooked strong she could carry a tray of cheese sambusak  straight from the oven with her bare hands

I heard her knead her complaints  into dough  beat them flat into crackers sprinkled with caraway seeds her black cardigan flecked with flour she rolled them out flat

Sixth Clove

to run out of garlic  is like running out of air I always buy too much left in the vegetable bowl it keeps growing shoots of green curled up embryos less sharp to eat less hurt  sprouts that don’t remember the uprooting from warm olive tree earth from ancestor graves

my grandmother believed anything can grow  anywhere as long as it’s attached  to mother  warding off  anyone who says  I don’t belong

Seventh Clove

I want to grow yellow roses like those peeping through  my grandmother’s kitchen window sprinkle her rosewater  brewed from scattered petals  simmered and strained  until strong on my skin

I lie my heart down  it will be kashered it will be eaten by man

you can’t buy it can’t conjure it up  with unwilling hands only blessed wrinkled scalded hands who know how to unfurl the garlic flower to reach the middle spine no knife can cut through

so throw garlic into the fire watch it cook  until it ages black doubles in strength subtle sweet sure all that I seek my grandmother already knew

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