Mulberries and salt by Claudia Serea

(Due to the formatting of this poem, it is best viewed on wider screens.) 

I remember the house with its open door through which old neighbor women who knew
everything came unannounced. And its two mulberry trees, laden with dark fruit and caterpillars.
We sat on the porch on kiddie chairs, watching the grapevine-covered yard and the road below.

The dusk fell for a long time. The chickens were pecking the pieces of history strewn
everywhere, fallen mulberries and caterpillars mixed with dust and blood. Only we didn’t know
it was blood. Little bits of our previous lives gleamed in the dust.

In the kitchen, grandmother resembled a seventy-year-old Virgin Mary. Her back was hunched
because she carried the world on her back bundled up under her dress. Her name was Maria, and
she kept stirring something on the stove. She called me over to taste the stew. I gave her my
necklace of tears to sprinkle in instead of salt.

She prayed to God with fear and talked to Virgin Mary—woman to woman, mother to mother.
One old Virgin Mary to the other, younger one, perched over the bed, in an icon with large cloth
wings. Maria asked for Mary’s help. The icon was mute. A tear sparkled and fell into my hand
like a pearl. Soon, I had enough for a new necklace.

Claudia Serea’s poems and translations have appeared in Field, New Letters, Gravel, Prairie Schooner, RHINO, and elsewhere. She has published five poetry collections, most recently Twoxism, a poetry-photography collaboration with Maria Haro (8th House Publishing, 2018). Serea is a founding editor of National Translation Month and a co-host of The Williams Poetry Readings series in Rutherford, NJ. She writes and translates on her commute between New Jersey and New York.

Lead image: [Untitled] (via Flickr user Mike Goren)