This Poem Needs Garlic

Needs smashing flat, skin picked
off in splinters, minced and fried
to a light almond sizzle, rescued
barely before burning. Needs a raw slice
at first scratch of a throat, needs all night
with a stinging chest poultice.
Needs to be which—the many clasped tight,
or the few, that split with one crack
into fat easy peelers?
Needs a full bulb simmered for hours.

Oh, salt it, soften to paste.
This poem wants plump and juice.
To be pulled from dry ground
in August, rip of roots,
the hole of itself
blurring dirt. To sweat
the smell of feet.

To be called Stinking Rose,
undo beige silk wraps in a swish
showing violet stripes.
Needs starting out mild, needs finishing
fevered in spice.

I know this poem needs
the combo pack, hardneck
for freshness, softneck
for storability.
Needs a papery shift
to slip from a firm shape
like a bicyclist’s calf. This poem
gets every clove pumping.
This poem is revealing
what’s like a pinch of breast. Really,
this poem needs to rest
three weeks, until the outer coating
dries and separates
only very slightly from the body.

Molly Tenenbaum is the author of three poetry collections, The Cupboard Artist (Floating Bridge Press, 2012), Now (Bear Star Press, 2007), and By a Thread (Van West & Co, 2000). Her work appears in many journals, including The Beloit Poetry Journal, Best American Poetry 1991, Black Warrior Review, Crab Creek Review, Cutbank, The Mississippi Review, New England Review, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, and Willow Springs. Recent honors include a 2013 4culture grant to collaborate with artist Ellen Ziegler in producing a limited-edition artist book of Exercises To Free the Tongue, her collection of poems centered on her paternal grandparents’ careers as ventriloquists on the vaudeville circuit. She also plays old-time banjo: her CDs are Instead of a Pony and Goose & Gander. She teaches English at North Seattle Community College and music in her living room.