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.