Fresh earth sticks to the edges of lettuce
and onion roots, the scent dispersed
into the air, dregs of wilderness still clinging
as I scan the shelves—dozens of eggs wrapped
in beige paper, table salt, rock salt, iodized, kosher,
coarse, and sea salt, a wall filled
with bottles of red wine.
But no black pepper, no pinto beans, no tortillas.
My grocery list is useless.
The produce man is hiding
among crates of apples
and celery as I wait, arms full of Malbec
instead of food. His drowsy,
hazel eyes magnetic
like a mystic’s, like he can stir the earth
spirit that sleeps in the vegetables.
The man smiles, hears the Wisconsin
in my words as I ask for albahaca,
but he’s already drifted somewhere
else, back to a Bolivian summer—
a tattered soccer ball ricochets
off the walls of abandoned buildings
on a narrow street, dust
kicked up into a lucent film
just before the sun slumps behind the city,
orange, then gray. I smile back,
the spark from his dreaming
a brief portal to wherever he is.
A box of ripe avocados sits on the floor,
but I’m no longer envisioning a fat burrito stuffed
with beans and rice and guacamole. The romance
is over, but the man is still smiling at me,
holding out a hand
with my albahaca, which I will keep in a jar
of water on the windowsill. In December,
warm winds from the river
will ripple in, albahaca in the wet air
unfolding its verdant stench.
The Sierra Nevada Review | May 2011