Honorable Mention Poetry: "Mistress of Spices"
by Nina Romano ’64
Cleansed with rose waters of my bath, I don a loose gown of shimmering lime cotton shot through with cucumber and silver silk. I wrap my head in a cashmere cloth, the colors
of saffron and turmeric, tucking every long black strand beneath the turban and wash
my hands with rainwater from a barrel outside the door. My feet are bare, browned
from the sun. Dangling on a golden chain, an anklet’s bells tinkle as I move across
the stone floor. My hand grazes bottles, jars, burlap pouches and tiny tins. I spin a teak
rack of flat, round wheels on a three-tiered stand. Powdered curry, ground cumin, green pods of cardamom, rose salt from a huge lake in Bolivia.
Sea salts: pearly-white, and dove gray from beaches in the Mediterranean. An urn of anise, a pot of bay, and a flagon of cassia. Fenugreek’s pungent seeds swirl in a coffer;
uncorked ampoules of truffle oil permeate the air an aroma akin to moist loam and moss. I shake a carafe of garlicky wine vinegar, watch white cloves and pepper corns afloat
like pieces of a kaleidoscope. On a quartz shelf, sentinel treasures: a cachepot of lavender covered with cheesecloth, thin vanilla sticks in a crystal vial, coriander in an earthen jug,
paprika in a gourd, and poppy seeds spilling out a jute sack. I conjure spells, whirl magic into teas, tisanes, elixirs, potions; I prepare farsumagru, vindaloo, ćevapčić
with my spices, plus two more: love in all its aromatic scents and senses harvested
in dawn mists, and the other whose name, never spoken, cannot be written.