Green Hills Literary Lantern




A thing like and unlike other things,

cumin is a staple nearly crucial

as cayenne, which cumin  complements

and makes palatable.  The mill worker

who lived down the street from us had hands

stained like cumin from lighting twenty Luckies

every day.  Retired, he had no time

for anything but sitting on his porch,

talking and smoking, fingers so yellow

they were green.  He kept the butts in jars

he watered daily, which was disgusting

but smelled somewhat like cumin.


Cumin is common, homely seasoning.

Grandmother dumped two tablespoons

of patent curry powder on the breasts

of chickens salved in white sauce for church dinners,

with a huff heavy as a sack of dry

cement or the beige puff from a rusted

powder tin.  Cumin is venerable.

It is cultivated in Isaiah.

Open Grandmother’s legacy bible,

and out will fall the earwigs of her youth,

the moon moths of her widowhood.

They slough their scales like comets on the page,

stain hands with tints like mace and cinnamon.


Cumin is not caraway.  Favored

in the hottest climes, something in it

recollects the body’s must.  July

was very hot.  I fell into your arms

just like a neighbor falling off the porch.

You came to me like chicken fricassee

at Sunday luncheon.  I pressed you

like the Book of Life contains us, kills,

and conjectures the dead might live again.

We held inside a hotel room until

the day began, though it was very hot.

I got up, and when I came back to bed,

I kissed your hair and tasted cumin.




Manny Blacksher taught writing and literature at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, but will begin a graduate program in Professional Writing at Carnegie Mellon University in the Fall.  A native of the south, he has also lived and worked for long periods in Montreal and Dublin, Ireland.  His poems have appeared in a variety of publications, including Poetry Ireland, Fortnight, Measure and Unsplendid.