- Nutmeg and Mace
Spices were currency once.Rent paid in peppercorns.
Can my dishes, so curried they amber the plateswith stains after, ensure the guests I serve stay?
No, you feed guests so they may have strengthto continue the journey away.
A good mother feeds a child so she’ll growlarge, too large for the house and leave.
There’s no returning to the cinnamon-toast–scented school mornings.
In the middle ages, cinnamon masked the smellof decaying flesh. Egyptians embalmed with the spice.
What comfort is the form when it does not holdits habitant? I would say that,
except I know when we want to care for something,what’s available may be a body.
I want to make meals for my mother now,but she feels full always, eats nothing.
We await the results of her tests,scans for a mass in the belly.
Nutmeg is made of the durable seedof Myristica fragrans, mace from lacy red [End Page 129]
fibers in the surrounding flesh.Mace is worth more.
Noting the price difference, a Dutch trader,who had never seen the plantations
of his distant colonies, sent orders:Cut down all the nutmeg trees,
to make room for mace. He did not know.Two spices come from the same tree.
Two spices, one tree: an analogy.About how the fineness of life
cannot be uncoupled from its finitude?A French serf’s life had measured value:
A pound of peppercould buy her freedom. It is freedom
I should think of, not keeping.Rent paid does not make a place yours
permanently. Currency has always beenintended to leave the hands in the end.
As has the force that moves muscles.In the beginning, my mother
held the spoon that fed me.Later, she let go.
She’d taught me to ladle myself full of food.She was behaving as she was supposed to.
But they are the hands that seasonedthe first of every of my tastes.
How can a child manage what, sooner or later(please be late), I must do? [End Page 130]
Rose McLarney’s collections of poems are Its Day Being Gone, winner of the 2014 National Poetry Series, and Forage, forthcoming in 2019, both from Penguin Books, as well as The Always Broken Plates of Mountains, published by Four Way Books in 2012. A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia, which she coedited, is forthcoming from University of Georgia Press. Rose is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Auburn University and coeditor-in-chief of the Southern Humanities Review.