MARBLES

20 December 2014

A CUP OF LINDEN TEA

Twice the size
Of what a respectable hen
Would deign to produce,
It was a fairly large egg
My cousin found nestled
Among all the ordinary eggs-
The speckled, brown, paperwhite shells
Clustered warm on the hay
Around that gray monstrosity.
Of course he lay claim to it right away
And his mother,
Who was a lousy cook by the way,
Let him keep it.

By rights, it should have belonged
To us both, but negotiation
Would have been a vain endeavor,
That, I understood.            
I was a visitor in the village, 
An intruder, even an interloper
Whose dispossessed roots were claimed by cities,  
And not by the country wind
Carried fragrant through the trees,
Not even by the sprawling farmhouse
I still often visit, nowadays in dreams.

In the pre-dawn hours
The procession reaches its destination
And everyone bows to start work.
It’s the best time for such a job,
The air chilled by the closing night,
The light scant, its spreading slow and soft.
Leaves are plump and hydrated before sunrise,
So easy to snap.
The familiar scent is at its strongest then,
Sap turns fingers sticky and black as tar
But they are gathered carefully,
Row after row, snap,
Piled into baskets, covered tightly-
Leaves like banknotes,
Each snap an assurance of survival.

They had passed beneath my window
And walked silently also beneath
The half-shut, summer-night windows
Of those lucky enough to be in slumber.

I’ve kept vigil as you’ve slumbered-
Your every deep, sound breath
In rhythmic rise and fall
Assurance of blissfulness.
Tell me, whom do I thank for this wondrous gift,
For knowing you, your arms,
And for the moonlight bathing your limbs?

As they traversed it seemed they levitated,  
A floating parade
Clearing over fences to reach the fields-
Spirits not yet crushed by effort,
The strain coming later, as the day progressed.
Even the animals, the solitary echo
Of a cow bell, carts grinding on cobblestone
Had a mystery surrounding them.

Entangled memories
Of youth and middle age,
Dreams of nightly ironing
To banish daytime creases-
And myself startled
Upon awakening,
An unopened book placed in my hands. 

But there was an egg, remember?
I was not allowed near it,
However, I affirm it was real, not a dream,
A true memory, although somewhat inane.
Here’s how things evolved:
At coffee time a neighbor came by
To have a look. 
My cousin triumphantly agreed
When his friends declared it to be
An oddity. 
It definitely was a peculiar specimen.
That enigma from the chicken coop
Could never have exited
A hen’s oviduct. 
The morning after its arrival
It was sacrificed.

I kept to my side of the table at breakfast,
Close to yiayiá˝±.
I sipped my linden blossom tea,
Ate a slice of buttered raisin bread.
Try dunking raisin bread in linden tea. 
You will love it.
He decided he wanted an omelet-
An optimistic child, my cousin,
Considering his mother was a lousy cook.
The omelet soup
Didn’t taste any differently he said
From other omelet soups he had.

I took measure of my graceless aunt,
Nearly husbandless, he traveled so much-
Why did he marry her, my uncle?

Grandfather’s horse lets me rest my cheek
Upon her belly. I give her water:
She drinks and drinks cool fresh water.
I give her everything she wants:
Fruit, vegetables, a bath and a brushing.
My cheek is pressed on her belly, I fantasize.
I love her warm, noisy belly
And her pacific bearing.
I dream:
When I grow up, I’ll finish school. 
Mamá˝± will send me to Paris. 
She said it. 
Suppose I’m alone in Paris?
If I ever have a husband
I’ll make sure he loves me.
He’ll open up my favorite book
And read to me, all the pages,
Read them with unhesitating pleasure,
With a soft voice
Underneath the linden tree.
When the tree is in bloom
His voice will sing,
Our story will become a serenade.

I will dry the flowers for his linden tea.