From Eat This Poem by Nicole Gulotta © 2017 by Nicole Gulotta. Reprinted in arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. RoostBooks.com.
by Jehanne Dubrow
Tonight I’m fruit and clove. I’m bergamot.
I drop a teabag in the cup and boil
the kettle until it sings. As if on cue,
a part of me remembers how to brew
the darker things—those years I was a pot
of smoky leaves scented with orange oil.
Truth is: I don’t remember much of school,
the crushed-up taste of it. I was a drink
forgotten on the table, left to cool.
I was a rusted tin marked childhood.
I don’t remember wanting to be good
or bad, but only that I used to sink
in water and wait for something to unfurl,
the scent of summer in the jasmine pearl.
Within this brief sonnet, “darker things” from years past go unnamed, and a new language is formed. For fourteen lines, the poet personifies tea, embodying the familiar flavors of bergamot, fruit, and clove while becoming an invisible cup “forgotten on the table” and recalling the “crushed-up taste” of school. It’s easy to put yourself in her place, walking the halls with friends, pulling notebooks out of a locker, sitting in the bleachers during football games, trying with desperation to grow into the person you are meant to become.
It takes courage to access nearly forgotten experiences, those that simultaneously shaped and shamed us. Although we might outgrow who we once were, faded memories tend to follow us into adulthood, and sometimes we need a cup of tea to make them right, a moment to settle our hearts and allow both the sweet and bitter leaves of our past to steep together.
Editor’s note: Find the recipe Nicole Gulotta has paired with Jehanne Dubrow’s “Tea” by clicking Mangiamo, Hometown Pasadena’s recipe-of-the-week.
In Eat This Poem, Nicole Gulotta pairs 25 beloved American poets with 75 new recipes.
Forage mushrooms with Mary Oliver, then wander into your kitchen to stir creamy truffle risotto. Study the skin of a pear with Billy Collins while you bake a warm vanilla-pear crumble. And honor the devoted work of farmers with Wendell Berry while snacking on popcorn dusted with rosemary and drizzled with brown butter.
On Sunday, April 9, Gulotta will be discussing and signing Eat This Poem at Laguna Beach Books 1200 S. Coast Hwy 92651. Find event details here.