Ode to Cabbage
“My ancestors, meanwhile, are eating cabbage. They keep
stirring the pot looking for a pigfoot which isn’t there.”
— Charles Simic
Translucent paper, watery veins.
I remember mom teaching me to steam
the leaves until light shone through,
so meat could be dropped inside like a parcel.
In Polish they call them little pigeons
but I think they look like envelopes in a dream.
There’s nothing that sends me more than that
holy trinity: cabbage, onion, bacon
frying in the pan. It transports me
to the women of my childhood
who are now gone — grandmothers, aunts,
who always had bouquets of dill
decorating the kitchen counter,
ready to perfume the half-sours.
I am the Old World,
transported to the New
by a sleepy center.
Ancient, delicate, Spanish
name rooted in Arabic—
luxury on your tongue.
Honey and fig jewel
my crown, dulce de leche
caramel my core.
I crossed the water
under sweeping sails,
folded in a paper coat.
Call my name and I multiply,
salt in my skin hinting at ocean.
I wear the powdered sugar
like a veil, hung over
until it lifts onto your finger
Barbara Varanka’s work has appeared in Booth, Moon City Review, Jet Fuel Review, and elsewhere. She serves as a poetry editor for Bear Review, and lives and works in Kansas City.
Masha Hoffey. 4″ x 4″. Cabbage Roll 2. Egg Tempera, Silver Leaf on Panel. 2021. https://www.mashahoffeyart.com/