I was just thinking about garlic.
The basil had been in the refrigerator a few days
and was looking resentful.
There was a handful of pine nuts and good parmesan,
but no garlic.
I was thinking about garlic when I left the apartment, and locked the door.
I was thinking about garlic when I entered the first bodega,
which had garlic in netted packs
next to pale squash.
But I didn’t want five heads of garlic,
I was thinking about garlic when I entered the second bodega,
and then I remembered I had been there before
and just as before,
there was a cashier behind layers of thick plastic,
several men standing at the door,
and no customers.
Several men standing at the door,
doing nothing and
but staring en masse
Which is when I stopped thinking about garlic.
I was thinking about the
dull silence in the room
as I walked to the back
past the stacks of votive candles
and generic brands of flour
and by the time I reached the girlie calendar on the back wall,
in a which a topless brunette with an arched back stared listlessly at me,
I was thinking about being
gang raped in the supply closet
next to the Goya olive oil.
My breath as still as January air,
as their eyes followed the motion of my limbs,
back past the oil,
and generic brands of flour,
and votive candles,
grasping for the door
and opening it so vigorously I am thrown off balance
and must take a step back.
And I seem to stand for an eternity
in the frame of the door,
not seeing them at all,
glimmering in their eyes:
My weight, my height, the length of my hair,
the rise of my shoes,
the arch of my calves,
the things I can or cannot scrub off to
feminine, to stop being
Then the door closes and I am on a city street,
thinking about garlic
Thinking about garlic and rape now,
wondering how many times
I am so intersected
in the pursuit of garlic, in the pursuit of M trains and packages.
South is that wine store I stopped frequenting
because the clerk stared heavily with wet smiles.
A few blocks west, the community garden I abruptly ceased tending
after the warden called me “princess” and tried to hold my hands.
The whole carrot harvest gone to waste,
and now I am thinking
about carrots and rape and garlic,
as I approach the third bodega
wondering how many times a month, or week,
I am so similarly startled
and then turn,
I am just another quiet lady you pass on the street.
I’m not a victim, not today,
how can I be
when I am so damn hungry for pesto
and I just want above all,
I just want to
think about garlic.