Salt Mine

by Angie DeCola

Salt is a potent and dangerous substance that has to be handled with care. . . .
                                                                                              Evil spirits detest salt
                                                     —from Salt: A World History, by Mark Kurlansky

As a child, I found small piles of rock salt,
left behind from homemade ice cream.

Somehow I knew to put the rock on my tongue
and suck. I wanted the pucker, the burn

in my throat, that sharp, sharp mineral taste.
I hadn’t yet learned of salting babies

for safety, salting husbands for more
and better sex, about salt against the evil eye,

or salt carried in a bride’s breast pocket
and sprinkled on her shoes to make her fertile.

I’d never heard of Abyssinians,
who greet their guests with a rock of salt,

whose guests must lick the rock before entering
the opened home. I only knew the taste,

the shape, the glasslike danger
of sucking on a rock, the trickle down

my throat, the bitter quench it offered me.

Angie DeCola is a pastry chef in Durham, North Carolina. Her poems have been published in DIAGRAM, the Iowa Review, and Crazyhorse. Angie is a recipient of the Lynda Hull Memorial Poetry Prize. She lives in Greensboro, North Carolina with her husband and their little black dog.