Ingredients

Ingredients

They say salt
was once so precious
that soldiers were paid in it—a salary.

A common, bitter thing
I add salt’s tear-tang to the dough
and feel my wrist and bicep work

(the ingredients of my life
are not measurable things
though I feel them pulse just out of sight)

now I see the sight I always see
out the kitchen window
as I knead and knead and knead

the dough in which ingredients
quicken into warm life
and in a Zoom meeting

a colleague notices
that I knead harder
when the topic turns sour

the dough, ecstatic, accepts
my worry and springs
back into my hands, better for it

just six ingredients—
the starter that I feed every day
like those two chameleons

in the terrarium were fed a meal of crickets,
that life for this one
the lizards used to escape and

my mother always found them
hiding in the curtains having
turned the fabric’s soft dove gray

flour soft, sifted through fingers,
precious now, shop shelves bare of it
I try not to spill, superstitious,

the way they used to throw some
salt over their shoulder if they spilled
in the eye of the devil


too many devils now—a country
so riddled with devils that quarantine
takes on the proportions of biblical trial—

are we worth saving?—whose life for whose?
but here is a quarter cup of milk
and a half cup of water

and a little inert baker’s yeast
so eager to blossom into brief and wild
life before becoming sustenance

that life for this one
and the ingredients of my life
are not things, but terrible flaws, sour hate, bitter betrayal

that grow on their own thirst
to be kneaded—transubstantiated by hands
into a whole that is, in all parts,

necessary—a brief and wild
ecstatic singing sustenance
before it is nothing forever.


Saramanda Swigart completed an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University and a supplementary degree in literary translation. Her short fiction and poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Alembic, Border Crossing, The Broken Plate, Caveat Lector, Diverse Arts Project, East Jasmine Review, Euphony, Fogged Clarity, Glint Literary Journal, Green Hills Literary Lantern, The Grief Diaries, Levee Magazine, The Literati Quarterly, The MacGuffin, The Meadow, OxMag, The Penmen Review, Perceptions Magazine, Plainsongs, Poydras Review, Ragazine, Superstition Review, and Thin Air; her work has received an honorable mention from Glimmer Train and a 2017 Pushcart Prize nomination. Saramanda is working on translating some of the more salacious stories from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Saramanda teaches at City College of San Francisco.

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