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The Spice I Did Not Like Was Chives by Leslie Cairns

The Spice I Did Not Like Was Chives

I finally figured out the spice I did not

Like, when I was a kid, and grandpa

Would hand me spaghetti,

Heaps of it,

As if my belly was purposefully made to slurp down


As a kid, I didn’t memorize spices like the neon stars that circulated

Around all of our beds

In the 90s.

I knew I didn’t like it: it was too abrupt, too chaotic–

As an adult, I’d dabble in turmeric, in ginger–

In onion and garlic,

But never tasted my grandpa’s recipe

Once I left.

His gravestone a marker of the ways that memories go unchecked.

There were once streaking sunsets, and the promise we would see one another again. But there were also expensive plane fights, and motion sickness, and the anger that was buried right under the way he said my name,

A beat too long in places.

As if he almost resented it, burned under the way I changed my name, the way I wanted to spike my hair,

the way I didn’t dangle a man upon my arm

The way they all did,

Back then.

And, finally, I make the bow-tie pasta as I swirl my braids around my finger,

Stopping for a minute at a snarl,

But I don’t

Untangle it.

Let it hang there, dangling

Messy waves that make me feel safe.

I look at the red-topped caps lining my weary stovetop

In my studio apartment.

I am not in stairwells paved with good intentions

like my grandparents; I do not own my own elevator company. He was always going up or down, soot upon his brow.

I do not know secretary-school shorthand like

My grandmother did.

She could write my name with just one mark,

And still remember it.

They’re gone now, and I cannot ask them the way they paved my senses

By adding spices to the center.

I sprinkle chives by happenstance, and the pasta puckers up to it, as if it’s the one devouring–

Fork in hand, tines up,

I sparkle as I realize

Chives were the way my grandpa made it,

The spice I did not like,

Falling haphazardly

Into my dinner



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