Born Melancholy and My Mother Buys Me Sea Salt
After Mary Szybist
Having been born melancholy, I love the hyacinth
scent of its dusty, gold-stamped spine.
My father’s repeated stories, the Bozye Moy
shaking of his head at the supper table,
his bent back seen from outside the house
when he sat on the couch, always waiting,
or remembering, or worrying about something he’d lost.
Being born melancholy, I accepted as normal
my grandmother’s self-imposed exile and martyrdom
in the corner bedroom, where she stored her toaster
oven, icons, and anatomy books.
The Slavic chanting in church both bored and tired,
but, unlike American hymns, did not annoy me.
Early on, I gravitated to boy singers who smudged their eyes
and posed on bluffs like Heathcliffs in pluming sleeves.
I like the denseness and thickness of melancholy,
its mossy thickets.
When I married my husband, we joined our melancholies
together, and for that reason, understand each other always.
The bow of forehead to floor, the communion wine
bursting Joy’s grape against my palate—
I could sleep in melancholy’s deepest blue for days.
Sometimes, melancholy and happiness twin through my body,
a twining moon flower, double locket with an opal frame.
My mouth tastes of thistle and cloves, or the coffee rinds
left in the bottom of a cup of Turkish coffee.
Winter evenings, I’m glad to ease my mind from the sun.
My Mother Buys Me Sea Salt
in bottles and plastic bags,
crystals grey, pink, and red,
in addition to the common white.
I have grown doe-ish, pinch it
from the jar, lick it from my fingers,
sow it over everything I eat.
I think of amniotic fluid in which
I was immersed for nine months.
I remember my grandmother throwing salt
over her shoulder against the evil eye.
Lot’s wife, a pillar pelted with wind
until she wore down to a pitted mound.
I think of ruin. I think, encrustation.
The rut of tears down my cheeks.
I brush my legs with salt to uncover luster.
I store it in its own wooden ark.
My mother’s salt savors the food I eat.
It testifies to the holy of holies.