To pickle, to preserve, means to extend the shelf-life of the once fresh. The Victory Memorial cookbook saves not so much as life, but a relic of life. This means loss. Depression & soft spots chopped from green cabbage, cucumber, red tomato, on- ion, heirloom peppers. An autumn hill, water-engorged & salted. Salt suckles the water like a receding tide. The garden shrunk, then doused with sugar, vinegar, brined with mustard seed, garlic, cloves: safe & antimicrobial. On the blacked cast-iron stove in the old kitchen, dim like an opium den, jars fill with a brackish mix, bobbing in the pressure, pickle color fading. Red-green genies out the top, steam the hiss of expiration. Once preserved, relics are last to be finished. You pick from a shelf of jar-generations. A bubble pops in the lid like a surfacing head. You spread cabbage sea-hags on your plate, eat the antiques. You eat like an ascetic — always rationing the present. The past you eat by the dab.
Tanya Muzumdar teaches at North Central Michigan College and edits Dunes Review. Her poems have appeared in Berkeley Poetry Review, Cimarron Review, Nashville Review, Prairie Schooner, THRUSH Poetry Journal, Vinyl, and elsewhere. She has received a fellowship from Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts.