Papa’s Chili Pot
I stand on my tippy-toes
to watch him line up all
the spices from the cupboard
side by side by side.
Ramsons, from the Dún na Rí
Forest, hidden from their seekers
beneath a centuries old oak,
their delicate white petals
are a skirt around the cloves
that he pounds with a knife
then slices and chops
as he drops the garlic into the pot.
From the fridge, he grabs
a half-filled bottle of May
wine that we made together
last spring. He pops the cork
and the sweet smell of woodruff
envelops the air, the field
where it grows a woven blanket
of rich leaves that slip through my fingers
as petite ivory flowers wave and ripple
with the breeze. The wine cascades
into the pot, a charcoal beast
warming atop its fiery mountain.
I motion for the final bottle, his secret
ingredient, the faded glass jar of Harissa
his father made while on a trek
across the mighty Kalahari. The Swati,
dressed in regal robes, plucked and sliced
and dried the peppers for the mix while
they toasted potent spices which they never
never breathed a word of to Papa.
He holds me over the pot as it bubbles
and boils, our own little melting pot
that has been passed down like
our cheekbones and dimples.