Of Fennel & Kintsugi

Miriam Bird Greenberg

Frayed hymn, but faded. Unsown
threads turned toothy-tough — a gift
of wild roadside seedheads gone
gunmetal with dirt-freckled rain. Fern
fringing its supper dish, ditch
dweller meant to mate with lemon
like a crayfish. A scrim for the hideaways
and shade-curtained highway-side living-
rooms where lately I laze, wandering
my mind’s weedy routes, dreaming trysts
aboard an anchored oil tanker
with its Italian captain, or along the wire-
crossed phone lines with my faraway
love, whose days are ragged
with work that makes talk tend
toward chore. Each of us lonely as a teapot
filled with birds’ tongues. Bitter
as lark’s feathers. Oolong leave-
s lusting for hot water like a gold coin
cut to wedges wishes for the sum
of its fractions. Shall I go on? A teacup,
chipped, then gilt-mended with poison
sumac glue, urushi, sap-lacquered red-
handed in rash joinery, as if
evidence of its break bred
a more elegant penance — then shut up
to cure three weeks in a lightless
room the size of a shoe. Me, I worried
my hems beneath bridges searching
for sigils, signals, hobo code hardened
to petroglyphs of the petroleum era,
as when eighteenth-century explorers
carved their misbegotten names in the 20’ toe-
nails of the Sphinx. I, too, signed my name
to works I hadn’t nurtured. I made nothing
but my small orbit: unfortunate
neighborhood of broken riches
a little gold leaf meant to mend couldn’t hurt,
nor cure. Its meager inheritance
of Maytag washers and outdoor weight benches
oozing their orange innards like maitake
emerging from the sticks of a scorch-
blacked forest. I passed the mechanics
dumping motor oil down a storm
drain, past a patch of wild lettuce — plucked, milk-
stink sweet as somnambulist poppy’s
semen, by one junkie herbalist I knew
in search of its opiate trace. Its leaves,
purse-lipped like disapproval’s guardian,
go flaccid the moment roots
bid goodbye to soil; glamour couldn’t call
this salad’s bitter cousin hers. I pried a nickel
from one parking meter, then the next, drank
three forty-cent Cokes from a machine
older than me while the town
psychic scanned the obits in her waiting
room. Eventually I’ll become someone
who wakes to brush out her gray braid
and listens to the horse traders, buys
by radio classifieds what would’ve come
by river eighty years earlier. In its quiet-
est moments my canvas cottage industri-
ously readies its ordinary poltergeists, the cats
bringing their gifts to blood-
y my pillow and die. If I sew
myself a series of tiny fur-lined sacks
to keep my cuticle-bitten fingers in,
if my ship comes in but I say Grazie,
no to the big-handed suitor whose engine
room I only want to see (though they say lies lay
close to the truth), and go out to harvest fennel
bulbs in the overgrowth where tent cities
accrete as sand grains beneath capitalism’s ruth-
less nacre… If I take the tincture
my herbalist friend gives me, Lactuca
virosa, which couldn’t make a mouse
high, and give up arguing over mating
calls with the yellow-beaked birds that holler
in my trees all morning, to ask Por
favore of the world, will it delight
me? Tesoro, ci sei? it says, its booty
call: Are you there, my darling?