Spice Shelf

Ellen Roberts Young

Jars on a rack nailed to the side
of a kitchen cupboard,
varying ages, but no heirlooms,
none as old as a mother’s sifter,
mother-in-law’s rolling pin
in kitchen drawers.

Arrayed neither by alphabet
nor Dewey’s decimals, more
like an apartment building,
tall jars in the penthouse,
their true colors―butternut,
orange, olive, tan, dark brown―
hide under matching wraps,
yellow labels on store brand
plastic or green on glass

Basil, rosemary, sage, thyme
have been refilled from the garden,
cinnamon, ginger, curry, cloves
from the co-op. Dill’s rarely used,
cardamom, turmeric remain from
failed experiments. Saffron, in
its tiny envelope, has waited years
for another special occasion.

Seniority gives no advantage here.
All are ignored until needed
to enhance soups, stews,
casseroles, marinades,
sauces, fire inside
kept secret until a splash
in a pot reveals the tang of curry,
sting of chili, piney sage.

Once they were young together,
the cook and her spice shelf.
Recipes she cut from newspapers
lie curled, smeared. Too occupied
with other interests to reinvent
in the wheel of prepare, serve, clean,
she repeats what she remembers:
Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg
+ pumpkin = pie. Rosemary
on zucchini, thyme with chicken,
caraway and rye, parsley potatoes,
she feeds her household
the comfort of no surprise.


Poet Ellen Roberts YoungEllen Roberts Young is a member of the writing community in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Her first full-length book of poetry is Made and Remade, (WordTech Editions, 2014). She is co-editor of Sin Fronteras/Writers Without Borders Journal and blogs at www.freethoughtandmetaphor.com.