Ode to Cardamom Children

We who were told by our mothers 

to find the veins of our spices, the brittle

rivulets carved into the skeletons

of fennel and cumin seeds—we opened

their hearts with the kiss of a pestle. 

It was fenugreek who taught us

spices were courted and not conquered. 

We can’t seem to remember when

we widowed our own taste buds—

rosemary died twice, buried

beneath our tongues and cremated in garnish—

the crackle of a tava, our epithet. 

Now only cardamom survives the stomach

of our mothers’ mortars— 

bruised and scalded, forced into mouths

struggling to forget. 

(Only mothers speak to ghosts.)

When the veins of cardamom are wrenched

open, they bleed 

into our fingernails, the price of a daughter’s adultery. 

Kanchan Naik

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