Swizzle Sticks

by Meri Culp

The original swizzle sticks were three or five pronged, created in the 1700’s at a rum plantation
in the West Indies. They were used to stir up Bermudian cocktails called Rum Swizzles and were
made from the branch of an allspice or sassafras plant.

:
Allspice (the forked)

Know that something small can stir a revolution.
Take, for instance, the forked swizzle stick,
ordered up to stem-stir the master’s evening drink,
a small branch in a plantation grove, an allspice
limb, cut, whittled, shaped to a V, a Y, the slave sculptor’s
hands moving quickly, deftly, fashioning points for
a summer pink hibiscus petal, a Bermuda olive, cocktailed
for a high priced drink, the splintered servitude of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg,
almost sweet, yet deceiving in its swirl, carried by the breeze, by the hands
of rising up; deliverance will come in that motion, in the slow stirring
of golden rum, island lime, sugar cane juice,
the straight baton of swizzle, the odd-numbered prongs, by threes, by fives,
insurgency, urgency, marching into the night,
the spice trees shaking loose big peppercorns, feeling the circling of something small.

Sassafras (the firestarter)

Realize that something small can start a fire.
Invoke the sassafras swizzle stick; its crossroaded prongs
lead to healing or fire,
sweet oil balm or big house blaze.
It’s all in the silenced spirit of choices,
how the restrained give voices to sticks,
rub them to release calm mornings or sparked nights,
make their commands of how to stir,
how to crisscross sassafras surprise into an iron-fisted glass,
open the wounds of wild mint juleps, ignite the quick start of freed tongues,
voices beyond the wraparound porch, orange and licking,
spreading beyond the trees, lined in branches cut,
discarded limbs shaped to sticks,
turned to turning, spinning deliverance, hands to the sky.


Read Meri Culp’s “Ruby Reds”

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