Loosed from flimsy parchment bristling
with brimstone stink, bulblets unleash
their sulfurous sweetness into the sauce,
lush warmth turning the gray air red.
When the Jews fled Egypt, they cried for garlic
with their bread, but God sent quails, then plague.
Too much desire, He said. Isn’t it always like that?
You ask for garlic and get quail instead. Or plague:
no knowing what will fall from the sky or drift from afar,
abroad, aboard—smell of sauce or cells gone wrong.
Spots glow on a dark screen, and the future turns frail
as a wisp of garlic skin, my oldest friend
scraped bare of the wrinkled, kind old woman
she meant to be. Here the sauce is—done,
the spaghetti heaped, steaming, on white plates.
But how do we juggle appetite with grief?
Ruth Hoberman is a professor emerita of English at Eastern Illinois University. Since her 2015 retirement, her poems and essays have appeared in such journals as RHINO, Naugatuck River Review, Rattle: Poets Respond, Michigan Quarterly Review, and Ploughshares.