Caraway by Maria Scala

A cold blast of air
each time the door opened
bell dinging, expectant smile:
Are you from the family?
As I packed the milk
away from the meat
I’d say no, and explain
to the coiffed customer
who’d already stopped listening.

When I cut my thumb
on the big slicer
the boss came down
from his office
with some gauze and alcohol:
Don’t press too hard,
have some coffee, sit for a while.

I moved downtown
found other jobs—
calling out orders
for falafel and chicken shawarma
or arranging Florentines
and lemon curd tarts
in elegant white boxes.

With too many where-are-you-froms
I’d curse under my breath—
a mangled version of the Croatian
learned from the cousins
my allies from that first bakery.
I was their pet, they warned me
about the rum balls
took me to Hull
where we closed the bar
with an anthem
I faked my way through.


Twenty-five years on—
unmistakable whiff of caraway
as we make our way up the hill.
A bell dings, but I don’t
take my children in.


Copyright © Maria Scala.


Maria Scala lives with her family in Toronto, where she works as a freelance writer and editor. Her chapbook, Between O and V, was published in 2008 by Friday Circle (University of Ottawa), and her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in Exploring Voice: Italian Canadian Female Writers, Sweet Lemons 2: International Writings with a Sicilian Accent, Descant, Literary Mama, and PoetryReviews. Find her on Twitter @mpscala.

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