Better than immigrant recipes because tastes lose their tribe.
In this neighborhood few buy lard— heartstopper, scale-breaker—
preferring the viscous, the transparent, cakes composed with olive oil,
and so find a way to zest, bright crumbs on the tongue.
What she would possess came after Belarus: awkward marriage
coarse sheet with an itchy seam, cache of mispronounced French words.
This is the survivor bowl, the nesting red and yellow smashed
when she packed them for one too many flights
crossing the country, tossed from house to house in blackbird clothes.
The year we shared a room, solve for x was a slap or so I felt
which helped me learn my mother, why her eyelids clenched
when lightning diamonded the yard in lariats.
What stories were stirred into those nights, what revisions, redundancies
the fabled gardens she watered at dawn
emerald lush monstera, philodendron, a furzed violet phalanx
blocking light. Her memoirs, buried in a box. Normal school. Nightmare of the buttonhook.
If something doesn’t bloom do we throw it out, if it roots do we cut it back—
there is something tough, indigestible about genius transliterated.
I can no longer break down milk, wheat, use butter only to heal oven burns.
Cooking melds foreign elements. I lift the bowl from its dusty place
show me the binding agent in this thin-skinned phase of life.
I’ll tell you what she packed against the children’s quarrels, her shameless threats
onion pricking crocodile tears: a spoon, a stretched-out lace chemise
a few paste trinkets, Shakespeare’s greatest condensed plays.
When born to another language, disambiguation cuts through
only be clear be clear spoon striking table, membrane of orange, papery
don’t you see the integument, fruit of the unpronounceable
you cannot have an angel on a fir tree you can have some cake.
Today a mealworm curls inside the bowl, is it an omen this tiny husk
rolling away from a breath, why does its carapace undo whatever has been done.
Carol Alexander’s third and most recent poetry collection is Fever and Bone (Dos Madres Press, 2021). Her work appears in anthologies and literary magazines such as About Place Journal, The American Journal of Poetry, Another Chicago Magazine, Caesura, The Common, Cumberland River Review, Delmarva Review, Denver Quarterly, Free State Review, Matter, Mobius, One, Pif, Potomac Review, Ruminate, San Pedro River Review, South Florida Poetry Journal, Southern Humanities Review, Stonecoast Review, Sweet Tree Review, Terrain.org, Third Wednesday, Verdad, and The Westchester Review. New work is forthcoming in RHINO, Gyroscope, and elsewhere. With Stephen Massimilla, Alexander is co-editor of the award-winning anthology Stronger Than Fear: Poems of Empowerment, Compassion, and Social Justice (Cave Moon Press, 2022).