Green cactus; Red rock

Green cactus; Red rock
photo by Linda Hoffman Kimball

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Spice House on Central Street

The Spice House on Central Street
by Linda Hoffman Kimball

One step inside and you can almost feel
the camel’s breath on the back of your neck.
In the distance you hear the taut snap of canvas sails.

Close your eyes. See
the Indonesian children, thin but strong,
dark skinned, ebony-eyed,
culling through the crystals,
swiftly plucking out debris
like darting hummingbirds.
The jingling and clicking of the girls’ bangles
Mingle with their laughter.

Toward the back, the solid
Eastern European women
caucus sternly over pickling methods.
The Swedes, their lilting voices
interweaving like braids of perfect dough,
have dabs of flour, cardamom and cinnamon
on their cheeks and aprons.

The Spaniard,
dressed in an improbable red jacket,
Delivers his precious, tender threads of saffron,
and departs quickly,
the merchant’s pouch safe in his pocket.

Short bronzed men, still sweating and pungent
from hauling the baskets down the hills,
exchange stories of the peppers,
some so hot even their throats burned. Or how,
when Garcia hired them for his cocoa crops,
their digestion improved just by
inhaling the dew on the plants.

Then the hypnotic women, slimmed waisted,
stand silently,
with their woven trays of samples
– long, slender, brown, moist, supple,
voluptuous vanilla beans.
Tahitian treasures.

A few blocks away on Central Street is an amazing shop called The Spice House. That’s all it sells – spices.
Their wares come from all over the globe and the scent of the place is exotic and indescribable. One whiff and I start to fantasize about all the sensual adventures of the spices, their lore and travels. My daughter used to work there and she came home carrying the smell of the shop in her clothing and hair. I would grab her sweater to my nose and inhale deeply, imagining the wonders of the world. I was once in the Central St. Post Office, just a few doors down from the Spice House. While in line I suddenly smelled that Spice House smell and turned. It was an employee, still in his apron there in the post office to mail some packages. Heavenly.

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