Salt

by Jeff Oaks

1
I have been craving that salary, that taste of the sea, that process by which the wild dead are cured toward eternity. Their huge shapes already hang upside-down in the basement, in the dark like enormous bats. The sun goes down so early. The house fills up with warm. What’s a little white mineral then sprinkled on this and that? The sun goes off and this pure white bite in every thing I eat? And then the water, water, water in me will not freeze while I fall asleep, which is all I do when the sunlight leaves.

2
Wars elsewhere. Incredible poverty attacked incredibly. Nothing but the anger of governments. Meanwhile, underneath, the individual kiss sticks to the lips an uncomfortable second. I think: my bedroom in another place would sleep six comfortably. Because although I try not to turn this into something about me, I’m not separate. It’s Lot’s wife we remember, for her humanity at the last moment, like Orpheus who turned at the wrong moment, but for a reason we understand. It’s hard to know when not to look. It’s hard not to turn into a pillar of salt or smell the tang of the sea surging suddenly in the lover’s neck. It’s easy on the other hand to forget that Lot’s story is this: afterward his daughters raped him, thinking there was no one else but them. And so the story of the destruction of the cities of lust ends in incest. They might better have stayed home with the rest.

3
You can see I’ve been mad about some things for a long time. Some of them go back to the old days of wind and sand, when fresh water was more valuable than gold. Before we discovered this other side of the world, where we could drink at last, where food and space is plentiful. Before we bought, by sweat and the use of the right words, this house with its enormous rooms. What are we always waiting for, we asked ourselves. And then I found you hadn’t been waiting at all. And then you left, changed. And here I am turning and turning in the middle of the night, trying to remember what I’d eaten that might account for the taste of blood. And then taking the dog out to pee. And then looking up into the dash of stars.

4
What’s left when the ocean recedes. What no joy should lack now, says Frost. I’ve learned at last to make soup more or less from scraps. A carcass for broth. Fingerling roots, the skins intact. Rosemary which grows gigantic on the back patio. Who will I call when I’m sad soon? For fluid balancing. For electrical signaling in the nervous system. For holy water. To exorcise, purify, kill the slugs who continue to rise out of nowhere and glide slimily over the strawberries. To burn them in their skins, for next day hornets to transform.



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